Sweden reduces Senior Center hours Residents address board at meeting

By on June 30, 2014

Sweden Town officials say they will work this summer to make a good decision regarding the Sweden Senior Center.

As of June 30, the center will close at 1 p.m. on weekdays instead of the regular 4 p.m. closing time.

The cutback in hours raises some concerns for Jean Brooks who lives in the Village of Brockport and utilizes the center. She says some seniors believe the shortened hours are a prelude to its eventual closing.

Brooks says there has been a somewhat strained relationship between the Town Board and the Senior Center for some time.

By voicing her worries, Brooks says she would like to create some interest in the center and “wake up the board to the fact we are here.”

She notes that former councilperson Mike Myers “took an interest in the relationship with the center … but he was the only one.”

Brooks says she understands that the usage of the center has dropped in recent years, but she says that’s because the town has not been active in creating new programming. The town focuses on younger residents, Brooks believes, via  the Sweden-Clarkson Community/Recreation Center on Lake Road (Route 19) South.

“Their interest is in the youth,” she says, “not on our program. The youth have  so many things available.”

When the Senior Center first came into existence, it filled a large gap in the lives of Sweden Seniors, Brooks says. “It was a God-send,” she explains, “there was a lot of activity.” The current center was built in 1980 and is located on State Street in the village.

Brooks says she realizes the senior center program specialist (Ricki DeBaun) retired recently with less than two weeks notice, but she feels that town leaders knew the retirement would come someday and they could have been pro-active regarding a future replacement.

Seniors are welcome to use the community/recreation center, particularly when the senior center is closed, but Brooks calls the location “terrible” for seniors, noting it is not as convenient as the village site.

She also says she realizes the town does not have limitless funds, but suggests other places expenses might be cut – such as the town park.

Sweden Town Supervisor Rob Carges says the town has “struggled” with   decisions regarding the center.

“It has seen less and less use – the core group has shrunk and their sons and daughters are not participating – and we have scaled-back to accommodate that,” Carges says. “We cut hours back for the summer and we will see where it goes from here.”

The Town Board will discuss the Sweden Senior Center during the summer months, he says.

The town encourages residents to use the senior center, Carges notes, but the town is also having to make difficult financial decisions.

“We have to make priorities and decide what is affordable for the rest of the community,” he said.

Town officials add that they will have to go through a civil service process to fill the program specialist position and that the community/rec center does not have the staff to send to the senior center as sports programs and summer programs are occurring.

Sweden-Clarkson Recreation Director Jill Wisnowski says the shortening of hours at the senior center for the summer “does not mean they are permanent.” She notes she is happy to have seniors come up to the recreation center in the afternoon for programming.

“The building is available to utilize,” Wisnowski says, “I have offered it to the card groups; it’s their choice.”

She notes that many programs continue to be available to seniors – weekday lunch meals, fitness programs, classes/crafts, clubs and events – but that sometimes programs and events might be cancelled due to lack of interest.

“That’s the story of life,” she says.

Some may be under the impression that they are being slighted with the cutback in hours, Wisnowski explains, but, she adds, everyone is feeling the pinch, “money is tight everywhere. The fact we are reducing the building by three hours will help the bottom line. I think it will be fine.”

Seniors can call 637-8161 from 9 a.m.  to 1 p.m. for information on afternoon programming.