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County halts Coxsackie senior center negotiations

Liana Lekocevic/For Columbia-Greene Media
March 12, 2019 11:12 pm

Columbia-Greene Media

Coxsackie officials are requesting the county pay the town higher rent for its senior center, but county lawmakers voted to table the discussion until later this year.

Members of the County Services Committee tabled a resolution Monday to amend its contract with the Coxsackie senior center, at 127 Mansion St.

The county pays rent to towns with a senior center, which is operated through the Greene County Department of Human Services. The town of Coxsackie requested an increase in the county’s monthly rent payment from $750 to $1,000.

The county’s three-year contract with the town to use the building for 25 hours per week expires Dec. 31.

Hanse wrote a letter to the county asking for an increase in rent, which he felt was justified, he said.

“It is expensive to maintain the center,” Hanse said. “We spent $850 one month to repair the fridge.”

Legislators first discussed amending the contract Feb. 11 with Greene County Human Services Executive Director Therese McGee Ward.

Ed Bloomer, R-Athens, said he met with Coxsackie Town Supervisor Richard Hanse after the last discussion.

“I expressed my concerns to him,” Bloomer said. “The visit was cordial and well-received. I encouraged him to make an appointment with Ms. Ward to come to a mutual agreement.”

Hanse did not reach out, Ward said.

Matthew Luvera, R-Catskill, asked if the requested rent was equitable.

Rent at the county’s senior centers is variable based on services offered, the number of seniors who attend and size of the center, Ward replied.

“Jewett is tiny, while Catskill is large,” she said.

The county pays $1,548 in monthly rent for Acra’s senior center, $1,246 for Catskill, $1,671 for Jewett and $1,866 for Athens.

The Department of Human Services is a frugal group, Bloomer said.

“My concern is, what programs will have to be shortened or eliminated?,” he asked of the department.

Ward previously lowered the county’s monthly rent for the Coxsackie center to $750 to keep the center from closing, she said, through negotiations with former Town Supervisor Alex Betke.

“They had low numbers [of seniors] and the Athens center is less than 10 miles away,” she said last month.

Hanse has not had an issue with the contract until now, Ward said Monday.

“For five years, he’s signed it [the contract] and never had a problem,” she said.

Legislator Charles Martinez, R-Coxsackie, voiced support for amending the contract.

“It was $1,000 years before and then it was taken away,” he said. “It should be restored to where it was years before.”

Harry Lennon, D-Cairo, feels the county’s senior center program as a whole is more important than the rent disagreement.

“Let’s not lose track of what the program is for,” he said.

Legislature Chairman Patrick Linger, R-New Baltimore, agreed.

“I don’t want to see the center shut down if we don’t amend the contract,” he said.

The center will not be going anywhere, Hanse said Tuesday.

“We will do what we need to do to meet the needs of our seniors,” Hanse said. “I have no argument with the county. People have gone and made a mountain out of an anthill.”

Coxsackie did not make $45 monthly pest control payments as required in its contract, so the county paid $795 a month instead of $750, according to a financial report from the department.

The three-year debt to the county for the service amounts to $1,620, according to the report. As of Tuesday, the debt had not been paid.

“They have a right to feel they’re not getting a fair share,” said Greg Davis, R-Greenville.

The county’s $1,548 rent payment to Acra for its senior center includes trash removal and pest control. Catskill’s includes pest control, internet and phone service, while Jewett includes trash removal and internet service. Acra, Athens and Jewett’s senior centers are also cooking sites.

The Coxsackie center has internet and phone service and was supposed to have pest control included in its initial contract, according to the report.

The new resolution includes trash removal and janitorial supplies, Ward said in February.

Bloomer did not want to start a precedent by amending the contract, he said.

“Then we might have other people asking to renegotiate theirs,” he added.

Ward agreed.

“Those numbers don’t reflect the prices they asked for,” she said, referring to the department’s financial report. “That was the rent we agreed on after negotiating.”

Jack Keller, R-Catskill, felt the current contract should be honored.

“We should let it go until negotiations for 2020,” said William Lawrence, R-Cairo.

The town also needed to be billed for the pest control, added Thomas Hobart, R-Coxsackie.

“Just tell them, ‘Here’s your pest control bill and we’ll see you for negotiations,’” he said.

Bloomer pulled the resolution from the county Services Committee agenda.

Reviewing the contract at the end of the term will not be a problem, Linger said.

“The issue isn’t the dollar amount — the issue is opening a contract in the middle of it,” he said.

Please be careful...would hate to see the Seniors forfeit this place for lunch and meetings. It honestly needs to be used more than just a few hours a day. Such a shame.. What is the solution here?
Please be careful...would hate to see the Seniors forfeit this place for lunch and meetings. It honestly needs to be used more than just a few hours a day. Such a shame.. What is the solution here?