Montgomery residents want their senior center extension

By Jared Castañeda
Posted 5/15/24

Last month, the Village of Montgomery board canceled the senior center extension for this year and residents are not too thrilled about the decision.

During the village’s April 16 meeting, …

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Montgomery residents want their senior center extension


Last month, the Village of Montgomery board canceled the senior center extension for this year and residents are not too thrilled about the decision.

During the village’s April 16 meeting, the board rejected all the bids for the senior center extension, postponing the project until the village secured more grant money. Mayor Mike Hembury explained the project would require a 20-year bond of $300,000 to pay for the remaining costs, raising residents’ taxes by $20 to $25 monthly.

Margaret Bussigel, a resident, challenged these numbers during the village’s May 7 meeting. She speculated that the tax raise seemed too high and, after doing her own calculations, found that a $300,000 bond would only raise taxes by a few dollars. She asked the board how they reached that discrepancy.

“If every homeowner in the village pays $25 a month for 20 years, that comes to something over $7.5 million. That can’t possibly be the cost of the bond of $300,000,” she explained. “I calculate a bond for $600,000 minus the $185,000 grant, what I came up with for each month for every taxpayer is $2.70. It’s a lot less than $25 or $28.

“In the likely scenario, the addition only costs $420,000, which was what we did the bid call for,” she continued. “That would only cost each villager $1.21, rather than the $25.”

Trustee Randy Wilbur explained that the village would need to update the entire senior center building to standard code, exceeding the extension’s initial cost. This would lead to additional charges for heating, cleaning, and insurance, and in turn, increase residents’ taxes by far more than just a dollar or two.

“I don’t want the perception to be that the board or myself are not sympathetic to the needs of the seniors or the senior center,” Wilbur said. “But beyond the grant, there are other things that factor in that as well. It’s not just the addition, there is a list of things for the building because of its age that need to be updated now that would cost the taxpayers money.”

Wilbur added that he and Bussigel could look at the numbers together, as he felt both the board and her calculations were off, and they could present an update to those numbers during the next meeting.

Later in the evening, Fred and Marguerite Flood, members of the senior center’s advisory board, emphasized the need for this project. Fred explained that the advisory board played a huge role in securing the project’s grant money, requiring a long and difficult application process that was always meant for the extension.

“Montgomery’s grant application was a research-based, data-driven proposal that requested money for a building expansion to address very important, health-related issues of social isolation and loneliness in the senior population,” Fred said. “The county selection committee was impressed with the living room concepts within the grant proposal and awarded the village $185,000 specifically targeted for that purpose and that purpose alone.”

Fred noted that both the advisory board and seniors were ecstatic about receiving the grant, but now they’re unsure if the extension will ever become a reality.

Marguerite then presented facts about the physical and mental issues that seniors face when they cannot maintain their social lives and how the senior center allows them to engage with others and create friendships.

“Age brings many changes that can contribute to a solitary life. One of the biggest issues for our seniors is their social circle begins to shrink. They’ve lost their spouses, their family members, and their friends,” she said. “Physical limitations limit activities when the aging adult can no longer drive, has mobility issues, or hearing difficulties. Any one of these scenarios can leave an older adult feeling very lonely and isolated.

“Coming to the senior center gives older adults the ability to connect with other individuals in a relaxed and very meaningful way,” she continued. “It can give them a reason to get up in the morning, to get dressed, to present themselves in the hopes of meeting someone they can talk to.”

Marguerite argued that the extension would give many seniors the chance to have these interactions in a quieter, smaller setting, as the center’s main room can be overwhelming for some. Members of the advisory board then handed the village board a petition from 200 seniors who want the project to move forward.

“As wonderful and as diverse as Trish Murphy has made that senior center, the large room prevents the people who are less mobile and less active seniors from the opportunity they need and deserve,” she continued. “This room would have given them and others a chance to make the human connection that is missing in their lives and hopefully extend their life in a meaningful way.”

Trustee Randi Picarello agreed with the speakers’ sentiment and speculated that the seniors’ needs could be addressed without costing residents extra money.

“This is a beautiful community because of the people sitting here and asking for our help. I’ve been hearing this for a year and a half,” she said. “This village was built on the backs of them and they’re invested in the community, and they are owed for some sort of discussion about it.”

Hembury was very firm on the matter and asserted that he did not want to raise residents’ taxes for the project.

“You tell the folks that you want to raise the taxes for this,” he said. “I’m not raising the taxes for this.”