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Dunkirk Office For Aging looks to relocate in city

Citing a lack of space and a troubled relationship with the Dunkirk Senior Center, the county’s Office For the Aging is looking to relocate its offices elsewhere in the city.

This week, Dr. Mary Ann Spanos, director of the Chautauqua County Office for the Aging, spoke at multiple county legislature committees about their needs and desires to move.

Currently the Dunkirk Office for the Aging outreach staff work out of the Dunkirk Senior Center building, 45 Cliffstar Drive. They want to move to 51 E. Third St., across from The Chautauqua Center’s main building. TCC actually owns this building as well.

At the legislature’s Human Services Committee meeting, Spanos said they’ve been looking to relocate for a while.

Spanos said the walls at their current location are “paper thin” and it’s difficult to have private conversations with clients without others hearing what is being said.

She also said they need more room. She noted that while the county’s overall population has been dropping, the senior population has actually been growing. “When I came I think we were less than 30,000 seniors. Now we’re over 38,000 seniors,,” she said.

At the Dunkirk Senior Center, they occupy about 800 square feet. The new location would give them about 1,800 square feet.

TCC has agreed to a lease of $12 a square foot. The monthly cost would be $1,800, with an annual increase of not greater than 1%.

Spanos said some renovations are needed in the new facility before they could move. TCC will do most of the work for $75,000. If the county were to oversee all of the renovations, it would be higher due to the county being required to pay prevailing wage.

The proposed lease is for 10 years. Spanos said she would be open to having a longer lease, however there are additional legal requirements for leases longer than 10 years which would slow the process.

According to the resolution, the county will pay for gas, electric, water, cleaning, janitorial, telephone, internet and cable services.

Spanos noted they have been in the Dunkirk Senior Center for 30 years. Currently they are not paying anything for rent at their current location because there is no contract. “We actually nixed their lease a couple of years ago because there were so many problems with heating and cooling,” she said.

According to Spanos, the county Office For the Aging got the Dunkirk Senior Center a $750,000 grant to make improvements, but they chose not accept the money. “They returned that to the state,” she said.

Even though the county is not paying anything for rent at the Dunkirk Senior Center, Spanos said they have $20,000 in their budget for rent.

At the Audit and Control Committee Spanos further described some of the issues between the Office for the Aging and the Dunkirk Senior Center. “The Senior Center no longer has an executive director. There was a city employee for many years who was in charge of Aging and Youth. One of the former mayors abolished that position and gave the center over to a group of seniors,” she said.

At one point in the conversation, Spanos paused and then said, “They’re not very welcoming to people of other cultures and other social-economic situations, and so it can be very challenging for the Office for the Aging to serve people in that location.”

Legislator Terry Niebel, R-Sheridan, expressed concerns about the Office for the Aging paying rent in the future when it’s not right now.

Spanos said that if they continue to stay there at some point she expects they would be required to pay rent. She added that 90% of their costs will be covered by state and federal funds.

The legislature’s Human Services, Audit and Control, and Public Facilities committees all backed the proposed lease. The full legislature will vote on the proposal Wednesday.

Spanos said if it is approved, she hopes construction will start immediately so they can move as soon as possible.

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