Dr. Bill Hale, President of Senior Citizens Services, called the organization's meeting to order on Tuesday, February 22. Approximately 125 seniors crowded into the Seymour Bell Center on Court Street.
People waiting in line to sign the register discussed their surprise at the dissolution of the membership on October 1, 2004. Joy Harris, former paid manager of the Gift Shop, also served as a volunteer for 17 years. Ms. Harris said, "The ladies who used to work in the shop miss the camaraderie it offered them. I had hoped that we could make it through the Christmas season but that was not possible."
The first item on the day's agenda was the approval of a condensed version of the minutes from February 17, 2004. Copies, which did not include a financial statement, were distributed for perusal. Harriette Weller asked, "How can we vote to approve if we are no longer members? In September, Dr. Hale stated that the membership was dissolved and offered refunds."
Robert Wittenberg, Executive Director, answered that technically all were still members. Gloria Burton, board member, replied, "Only services have been discontinued not memberships." Dr. Hale added it was a courtesy to ask for approval and called for a vote. There was a majority of "ayes" for approval and 11 "nays".
Prior to the general meeting, the Board of Directors met and adopted Revised Articles of Incorporation. The changes were not read aloud. Anyone interested in the revisions could raise questions after the meeting.
Dean S. Robinson, Chairman of the Nominating Committee, announced the reelection to the Board of John Logan, Jr., Richard Siple and George Tice. Howard Hamilton and J.B. Johnson will fill seats vacated by Kenneth K. Smith and John Meek, Sr. Mr. Robinson said, "John Meek was a charter member of this organization. With his retirement, we are losing an institution."
The Board had previously approved the slate. Nominations were closed, and none were allowed from the floor. According to the by-laws, names must be submitted to the committee four weeks prior to the meeting. An audience member said, "The notice of this meeting arrived too late. Members should have been contacted earlier so recommendations could have been made." Dr. Hale quieted the crowd and said, "Please let's move along."
Bob Wittenberg rose to give the Executive Director's Report. He reiterated, "You are still legally members unless a request was made to remove your name. Only the membership fees were terminated. Notices were mailed to 2,600 people." He added, "At $10 per person, fees only generated $26,000 in income, which was insufficient to meet expenses for more than one month's operation.
Wittenberg stated that 2004 was a difficult year for the failing corporation. Due to 9/11 international tours were not popular. Day trips did not make enough money. The Gift Shop sales paid for utilities but not payroll. Loss of income necessitated using reserve funds to subsidize the budget.
The Board voted to cancel programs in October to cut costs and preserve investments. Monies would be used in the future to support other senior programs, but no decision has been made as to which programs. Books were donated to libraries. Computer and entertainment programs were housed in community churches. But, no organization wanted the financial burden of the Gift Shop.
The President's Remarks were given by Dr. Hale, who has served on the Board since 1978. Objections were made to a fee increase. Aid was sought from the Clearwater City Council for a co-op operation similar to the Long Center. Nothing happened. The contract on the sale of the property was withdrawn when the County Commissioners insisted usage be approved by the City Council. Hale apologized for closing the center but felt the Board made the right decision.
The meeting was opened for membership questions and comments. Wayne Misler asked, "Am I still a member? If so, a member of what?" One gentleman suggested renting out 2 of the 3 buildings. Dr. Hale said that was being explored.
Darleen Klement stated, "New residents did not know about the center. The center couldn't progress without advertising. Board members should have taken their obligations more responsibly." The Board felt that advertising was adequate. Others added that when programs were relocated there were no bulletins giving proper information.
Many questioned why the city has not "chipped in." Mayor Hibbard has expressed a desire to establish a Senior Center. Since SCS is a private not for profit organization, there are problems to be solved before the city can become involved. Mrs. Weller suggested seniors attend council meetings and express their wishes.
Before adjournment, Mr. Wittenberg announced, "This will probably be the last general meeting. There are no fees, no direct services, no membership, so there is no need for a future meeting. The organization will operate 'like' a foundation only."
Return to Home Page
Return to Current Edition