There is a running battle between Lincoln City officials and the Lincoln City Senior Center governing officers. The big hassle is over the city's action to make the senior center subject to its current permit program.
The situation makes me very sad. I have been a regular at the community and senior center since 1985. I swim in the world-class pool, exercise in the fitness center, and dearly love the wonderful staff. I am a member of the senior center and have held several elected positions.
In a letter to center leaders Anne Stephen and Tamara Staples on June 28, Mayor Susan Wahlke wrote “...You are not currently city-programmed or city-sponsored, and even if you were, such sponsorship would not extend beyond the budget year. If you have been advised differently in the past, please consider any sponsorship revoked.” The letter stated that the center has until July 31, to remove all of its equipment and property unless it agrees to sign and abide by a controversial use permit and agreement.
The controversy swirls around an unwritten agreement between the city and the Lincoln City Senior Center that has been working since the community center and senior center opened 41 years ago. The city now maintains there never was a valid agreement and the senior center has to abide by its intricate maze of new permits, the same as other organizations.
The city decision makers are ignoring history. Back in the 1970s, a bond measure to establish a community center went to the voters and was soundly defeated. A similar measure was again submitted to the electorate, but this time the ballot was for a community center and senior center. The measure passed. But somewhere in the bureaucratic march of time, the word “senior center” disappeared from the community center records, publications and correspondence. Now, it’s solely community center and the title senior center mysteriously disappeared.
The Lincoln City Senior Center, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit corporation, took over the operation of the senior center. It budgets, finances and operates the center, and its only income is from dues — $12 a year. The center's annual budget is about $10,000 a year.
When Ron Ploeger was parks and recreation director and Gail Kimberling was community center manager, things started to change. I don't blame them for the situation, but lay it on Dave Hawker, the city manager. He was seeking money for the city because coffers were running low. It was a hard time for the city. Hawker wanted the senior center to pay rent. I was vice president of the senior center at the time.
Since then, even after Hawker left, that rent issue was lurking in the background, and it is still there. I understand that Hawker, who has retired, is currently serving as a consultant for the city.
The senior center has been closed because of COVID-19, and the officers tried to open the center now, but the permit applications with the city has halted the opening.
I understand the senior center is having a general membership meeting soon to decide on whether to agree to the city's demands.
I, for one, would like to fight it and seek legal redress, but I am weary of acrimony and conflict. I have enough on my plate. I am 98 years old, and just staying in shape to live is a fight. And my fellow seniors are in the same boat. We have limited resources and energy to continue fighting. We have fought in three wars, lived through the Great Depression, raised families and gave our lives to our families, communities and nation. We are tired. Give us a break.
I do have one suggestion for Mayor Wahlke though. The city council and staff could do with some sensitivity and compassion insights. I suggest they get County Commissioner Claire Hall to conduct a mandatory sensitivity training session for them.
Frank King is a resident of Lincoln City.