Many misunderstand county’s role with Houston County Senior Citizens’ Center
Houston County Courier
By Lynda Jones
I am very concerned about the recent closing of the Houston County Senior Citizens Center. I have received numerous phone calls and questions on the street in the last few days. Unfortunately, I have not been able to provide a lot of answers, because the senior citizens program is not operated by the county. There seems to be a lot of misunderstanding about the county’s role in the program, so hopefully I can clear some of that up. As I said, the county does not operate the senior citizens program. It is operated by a non-profit corporation known as the Service Center for Older American of Houston County, Inc. They are governed by their own by-laws and their own board of directors. The board is not appointed by the county, and the County has no legal authority to tell them how to run their business. However, the County does have a substantial investment in the program. As a matter of fact, the county owns the building that houses the senior center in Davy Crockett Park. The building was constructed in the early 1980s with funding from a federal grant obtained by Houston County. The land where the building sits is owned by the City of Crockett and is leased to the county for 50 years. When the lease expires in the year 2032, ownership of the building will transfer from the county to the city. There is an agreement in place between Houston County and the Service Center for Older Americans Board of Directors that basically turns the building over to the service center in return for them operating the senior citizens program. The county retains the right to use the building for elections and other activities as needed. In addition to providing the building rent free, Houston County also contributes additional funding to assist the senior citizens program, and, contrary to what you may have heard, we have increased that funding significantly in the last few years. Since October of 2008, the county has been directly paying the electric bill for the senior center, which has totaled $14,797 over the last 12 months. In addition to that, the County is contributing $450 per month to the center which is supposed to be used to offset the cost of other utilities including gas, water and telephone. And, the county is giving the center an additional $2,000 per year to help support their home delivered meals program. So the county’s financial support to the center is now approximately $22,000 per year as opposed to $2,000 per year just a few years ago. Where do we go from here? I wish I knew. What I do know is that the program is very important to Houston County. That’s why we have increased the funding we provide. And we will continue to do everything we can to ensure that we have a successful program in the future. It is my understanding that the Deep East Texas Council of Governments (DETCOG) and the Texas Department of Aging and Disability Services (DADS) will conduct a monitoring visit of the Senior Citizens program beginning on May 10. I hope the results of that visit will give us some guidance. In the meantime, DETCOG has received permission from the state to begin an emergency home delivered meals program on a temporary basis. The county is cooperating with them to allow for storage of shelf-ready meals which they hope to begin delivering to residents within the next few days. I commend Holly Anderson, director of the DETCOG Area Agency on Aging, for taking this step, because we have a lot of residents around the county who really benefit from it.