Senior center patrons have been positive on the center’s operations since the city took over at the beginning of 2017. Nicole Jennings/staff photo

Senior center patrons have been positive on the center’s operations since the city took over at the beginning of 2017. Nicole Jennings/staff photo

Issaquah council talks grant funding, senior center operations

City council discussed the 2019 grant recommendations and plans for the Issaquah senior center.

At its Committee of the Whole meeting on July 24, the Issaquah City Council discussed the 2019 community fund grant recommendations and received an overview of the current plans for the city’s senior center.

The community fund is a competitive grant program in which nonprofits apply for grants to build staff capacity, professional development and help meet the funding for a specific project. According to the city, this grant is intended to be a limited-use fund that would specifically go toward organizational planning and development that would build capacity.

Amy Dukes, development officer and arts coordinator for the city, gave an overview of the grant at the meeting and discussed the recommended funding for the applicants.

For this year of funding, the city received 11 applications requesting a total of $208,661. A new addition for this year was an ad hoc community review panel, made up of members of various city commissions, that looked at each of the applications and gave their recommendations for funding amounts.

The staff also suggested taking two applicants, Friends of Lake Sammamish State Park and Issaquah Alps Trails Club, and moving them to a city contract rather than grant applicant. That move would put them alongside organizations such as the Issaquah History Museum that provide ongoing services for the city.

Council members gave feedback on more information they would like to see as the recommendations come before them again in the future, including reasons why an applicant may have received less than they asked for compared to others or trends in population and need growth versus decline in total asking price. Council was also concerned about moving the two nonprofits to contracts from the grant.

Council will make deliberations and decisions on the grant funding during the 2019 budgeting process this fall.

Council also received an update on the future plans for the operations of the senior center. There plans for a more in-depth council discussion on the topic at the special work session on Aug. 20.

Jeff Watling, parks and recreation director, reported on staff’s efforts in exploring potential operation partners for the center.

The senior center came under the operation of the city after the city took over operations from the now-dissolved Issaquah Valley Senior Center Board. After running the operations for more than a year, the city is now looking for interested parties to take up operations to lighten the resource load for the city.

Watling said staff interviewed a number of interested candidates and potential operating partners. He said they talked to local and regional nonprofit agencies that have an interest in the senior center and provide some form of senior support.

“It was really good important work, helped us to get a good understanding of the lay of the land — who is in a good position to look at expansion, what are the issues facing senior service agencies,” Watling said.

Staff also conducted a survey of the senior center patrons to get their opinions on how they would like to see the center run. Eventually staff put up a letter of intent request process, in which interested parties could submit a letter to further discussions with the city.

The city received only one response — from Eastside Friends of Seniors — and have set a schedule of meetings to learn more about their operating model, operating capacity and budget.

At the Aug. 20 work session, staff will present to council a comparison of what operations of the senior center would look like under a third party or under the city. They plan to collect more public comment on the issue as well.

Council members suggested topics for Watling and staff to find answers for in their upcoming research and meetings. Council member Chris Reh suggested staff look for cost comparisons and grant funding options available through the city versus a nonprofit organization. Council member Bill Ramos asked staff to look into rental possibilities for the building when it is not being used for senior center activities. Council member Victoria Hunt asked for a comparison of staffing models and how the city’s resources could be used. Council member Tola Marts asked staff to look at the potential difference in service delivery and outcomes.

The full video archive of the meeting is available on the city of Issaquah’s official Youtube channel.

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