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Senior center denied funds

July 26, 2011

Berne Councilman Mark Wynn

    Despite a request earlier this year from board members of the South Adams Senior Center for financial assistance from the city for the day-to-day operations of the center, the 2012 budget unveiled before Berne City Council on Monday contained no such appropriation.
    In May of this year, representatives of the senior center asked the city to commit  $6,225 toward operation of the center in 2012. That figure represents $1.50 per capita for each of Berne's 4,150 citizens, former Berne mayor and current senior center board member Blaine Fulton said at the time.
    Fulton said that while the senior center has been operating since its inception on a $40,000 annual budget, a number of changes related to the struggling economy will make it impossible to meet that goal this year. The center is anticipating a $15,000 shortfall in 2011 and an estimated deficit of $24,000 in 2012, Fulton said in May.
    Councilman Mark Wynn on Monday asked if the city's 2012 budget included the requested funding for the senior center operations. Mayor John Minch, who prepares the annual budget and then submits it to the council for approval, said the funding is "not built into the budget at this point." That response was met with no objections from council members.
    "I'm not willing to spend money on (the center) next year," said councilman Mike Poulson.
    The need to replace a deteriorating roof at the senior center, however, was greeted by council with a great deal more urgency.
     The South Adams Senior Center began in 1994 with the formation of the non-profit South Adams Seniors Inc. to serve senior citizens in the southern half of Adams County. With the assistance of a $455,000 Community Development Block Grant and $200,000 in locally-generated funds, the current senior center site in Berne was constructed. The building is owned by the city of Berne; the senior center board pays $1 in annual rent.
    Major upkeep of the building is the city's responsibility, and Wynn said the roof at the center "is pretty iffy ... it's about as bad as a roof can get."
    Wynn, a contractor by trade, said the recent heat wave has helped to further deteriorate an already distressed roof at the center. In addition to new sheeting and shingles, Wynn said there are venting deficiencies at the site that must be addressed. He conservatively estimated the repair costs to be $25,000.
    Maller said a language error made by the Indiana General Assembly this year has left all public construction projects subject to prevailing wage laws. State legislators reportedly plan to clean up that language at a special session in January to return minimum project spending limits that are to be subject to the prevailing wage law. Maller said it could be in the city's best interests to wait until 2012 to repair the senior center roof.
    But Wynn said the need is urgent. "I'd hate to wait (to repair the roof) and wind up having even greater costs" caused by water damage, said Wynn. "If we can figure out a way to fund it this year, we should do that."
    Minch said he would further research the current prevailing wage law, and that formal project specifications would be presented to council at its Aug. 8 meeting in anticipation of seeking sealed bids for the project.

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