At their Aug. 20, Council Committee Work Session, the Issaquah City Council received a report on possible operations models for the future of the senior center.
The Issaquah Senior Center has been under the interim operation of the city since January 2017. The city took on the operations role after the previous group, the Issaquah Valley Senior Center Board of Directors, dissolved.
While the city has been operating the facility and services, they have been examining the best long-term options for the continued success of the center. At the meeting, Parks and Recreation Director Jeff Watling gave a presentation on the options the city had looking into 2019.
The options he presented were primarily to explore the city permanently running the facility or transitioning the operations to a third party.
Watling explained that the after a request for letters of intent from parties interested in taking on operations of the senior center, they had received one letter from the Eastside Friends of Seniors. The Eastside Friends of Seniors (EFS) is a volunteer-based organization to provide some services, such as transportation and home services, to seniors in both Issaquah and Sammamish. They currently partner with the city of Issaquah to provide services to the senior center.
Watling said that while EFS does provide services they do not have any experience running a senior center facility. The group is still working on the operating model and budget but would need in-kind support from the city such as facilities and transportation fleet maintenance. They would also be requesting financial support in 2019 to expand their operational capacity which would allow them to take on the operations of a senior center, while not losing the current services they provide.
If the city went forward with a plan to transition operations to EFS it is projected that the transition might occur in the first or second quarter of 2020.
The second option was for the city to become the full-time operator of the senior center. Watling presented a projected budget for a year of operation that showed revenue from fees, charges, grants, and contributions at a total of $144,000. The projected net operating cost for a year at $318,000. For comparison, the 2018 budgeted net operating cost is $320,760, Watling said.
The city plan also showed a increase to staffing from one to three full-time employees, part-time staff- and volunteers. Programs and services were also listed with increased social service offerings, expanded trips and tours, expanded health and wellness programs, and expanded partnerships with senior-focused agencies.
An increase and staff and services would cost more, but in response to questions form the council as to why the net operating costs are so similar, Watling explained that with an increased capacity the city would be able to be more aggressive in finding revenue sources from fees and charges, and it would allow the city to pursue more grants and contributions.
A third option to prolong discussions with EFS into 2019 before a decision would be made was also presented to council.
The council discussed what more information was needed as this process progressed further such as a detailed analysis of what EFS would be able to provide and their financial stability in running a facility long-term, a deeper dive into the projected budget for the city, and what possible governance would look like.
In public comment, every speaker made it clear that they fully endorsed the city taking over the operations at the senior center and that the interim operations have been a massive improvement over the previous administration.
No decision was made that night, but staff took all of the feedback from the council and public and will continue working on the possible options.