After a lengthy meeting this afternoon, the Knox County HELP Board of Directors voted to close the Senior Citizens Center at the end of this year. The board could only describe the current operation as a “sinking ship” after suffering a history of funding issues. With nothing else to cut from the budget, the board saw no other option but to close.
“I think we’ve looked at every possible option there is and it still doesn’t solve the fact that we’re sunk as far as monetary means. That’s not going to improve,” said chairman Lewis Hopper. “As much as I hate to say…I think we need to close our doors. I think we’re insolvent.”
Hopper made the motion to close the doors on December 31 and it was seconded by Sandra Nickell. All in attendance voted in favor of closing.
Currently, center director Lois Helton has ten outstanding pay checks totaling $8,996 because “we don’t have the money for her to cash them,” said Jean Baker, financial reporter. Her outstanding checks go back as far as April 4. By the end of the meeting, all agreed Helton needs to be paid but a solution was not found.
While the center has suffered from cuts in state funding, the main catalyst for the current financial situation occurred when the center lost the Adult Day Program. Since then, the center has slowly hemorrhaged.
Not all hope is lost, though. KCEOC has expressed interest in taking over the center and continuing the services. VP Jennifer Smith was present at the board meeting to further discuss this potential takeover. In the upcoming months, KCEOC will look at the center’s budget, staffing and other reports to see if this is a viable option.
If KCEOC takes over the center, Smith reassured the services will remain the same and all four workers, if they choose, should remain employed.
“We’re very interested in making sure these services stay in place. We provide services for the elderly now,” said Smith. “This is certainly an extension of what we already do and we don’t want to see any of these services end at all.”
Another undisclosed agency also expressed interest in the center, as reported at the meeting, but this may only result in temporary support.
Currently, the Senior Citizen Center provides homemaking services, personal services and meals to approximately 46 elders each operating day. Overall, it has provided services for 42 years. Currently, these services are provided through a contract with the Cumberland Valley Area District.
Leigh Martin, Agent Services Director, said services should remain uninterrupted beginning January 1, 2019 as Cumberland Valley will look for an emergency service provider per their contract. The board is hopeful this will provide enough time for another agency, be it KCEOC or someone else, to take over the center and continue operations.