Wednesday, January 16, 2002

Senior center may open next month

By Cindy Schroeder
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        INDEPENDENCE — By mid-February, city officials hope to open the long-awaited Independence Senior Center on a part-time basis.

        “I've been getting a lot of calls just really in the last week,” said Independence Administrator Mark Wendling. “We want it open as badly as anyone else.”

        Since August, about 300 people have signed up for the $1-a-month memberships. With no senior centers in southern Kenton County, older residents have to travel to Elsmere or Walton if they want to participate in daily organized activities for seniors.

        Originally scheduled to open this month, the center's opening was delayed after City Council voted last week to make the director's job a city position, rather than have the new director report to an all-volunteer senior board.

        City officials say the change will provide more job security and benefits, such as participation in a state-funded retirement system.

        The senior board has agreed to provide about $60,000 over two years to help cover the new director's salary and benefits, and has pledged to help pay for the position in the future through fund raising and grants.

        Mayor Tom Kriege said he hopes to fill the director's job by Feb. 1.

        Mr. Wendling said city officials also are working with the Northern Kentucky Area Planning Commission to resolve a building issue, so that a final certificate of occupancy can be issued.

        Barbara Gunn, executive director of Senior Services of Northern Kentucky, has said the demand for senior centers will increase as the area's population ages. She said such facilities help older residents stay connected with their communities. When the Independence Senior Center opens in the centrally located Memorial Park off Ky. 17, it is expected to offer everything from health screenings to social activities for southern Kenton County's oldest residents. In the afternoons and evenings, the one-story, red-brick building will revert to a community center for use by all ages.

        Planning for the senior center began soon after businessman Charlie Deters donated 26 acres to the city in December 1995 for a park.

        Funding includes $270,000 from the state, $200,000 from Kenton County and $410,000 from the city.


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