Senior citizens in Oxford Township are going to have a brand-new place to call their own thanks to a loosening of the purse strings by local officials.
Last week, the township board voted 6-0 to allocate $300,000 to assist with the construction of a $400,000 senior center in Seymour Lake Township Park.
The money is coming from the township general fund’s fund balance (or reserves), which, according to the recent audit report, amounted to $1.498 million as of Dec. 31, 2017.
“It’s an investment in our community and I think that’s what we need to do as leaders,” said Ron Davis, director of the township parks and recreation department. “If we’ve got money in our fund (balance that) we can spend on our community, there’s no better way to spend it.”
Given “we haven’t done anything for the seniors in our community,” township Supervisor Bill Dunn said this center “would be nothing but an asset.”
Trustee Margaret Payne said “not enough’s been done for our seniors,” who continue to pay millages, including those to support schools, but “get the least amount (of benefit) for their taxes.”
“I think this is a good way to spend that money,” she said.
The center would be 3,034 square feet in size and it would be attached to the existing multi-purpose community room and parks/rec. administrative offices, both of which were created last year when the old maintenance facility was renovated and repurposed.
To build the senior center, Davis plans to take that $300,000 from the township and add it to the $100,000 the parks and rec. department is willing to “kick in” from its reserves.
He’s already been in touch with the group of Oxford-area contractors he frequently uses for projects.
“We’ve got quotes from all of them, so we’re not just pulling a number out of the sky,” Davis told the board. “We’ve done our due diligence and we can build this for $400,000 or less.”
“You know me, we’ll be as frugal as we can,” he noted.
In his mind, this is a definite need.
“We’ve never had an active senior center,” said Davis, who’s been parks director since 1995. “We had (the Oxford Veterans Memorial Civic Center). It was a room with tile and they played bingo.”
The new senior center would be designed to offer the community’s mature citizens more to do, especially since it will be situated in a spacious park full of outdoor opportunities.
To that end, parks and rec. is going to have a full-time staff person devoted to creating recreational programming for seniors.
“When I say programming, we’re going to be active,” Davis said. “We’re not playing bingo. We’re not playing cards. We’re going to play tennis. We’re going to play pickleball. We’re going to (play) softball. We’re going to cross country ski.”
“I’m 53 (years old). A senior’s (starting age is) 55. Those days of sitting around are over. Seniors, nowadays, want to be active,” he added.
The new senior center will have a basic kitchen containing a refrigerator, microwave and sink. There won’t be a stove because there will be no cooking done there.
Seniors would be able to use this kitchen as well as anyone else who’s renting the adjacent community room for functions such as showers, meetings, parties, etc.
Outside of the $300,000 for construction, Davis told officials nothing else would be asked of or expected from the township. All operations and staffing costs would be covered by the parks and recreation budget.
“The township would be removed completely from it as far as finances (go),” Davis said. “We would program it, staff it, run it, maintain it. It would be our baby.”
With funding approved for the senior center’s construction, the Oxford Area Cable Communications Commission will finally be able to move forward with its plan to build a new 2,500-square-foot station for Oxford Community Television (OCTV) in Seymour Lake Park.
In October 2017, the cable commission voted to set aside up to $300,000 from its fund balance for a new station. That cap is supposed to encompass all costs, from plans and construction to moving expenses and furnishings.
“They’re ready to roll. We’re ready to roll . . . It’s my understanding that (OCTV needs) to be in by February,” Davis told the board.
Since 2005, OCTV has been housed at 1775 N. Lapeer Rd. in Oxford. It rents a commercial space for $2,000 per month and the lease is set to expire in February 2019.
Davis noted the new multi-purpose community room has been quite busy since opening last year.
“It’s rented every weekend, Saturdays and Sundays,” he said. “During the week, it’s being used by Cub Scouts, nonprofit groups, quilting classes. It’s really exceeded our expectations. Actually, we’re struggling trying to meet the demand on weekends, so the need is there. We knew it was there.”