Jewell Walker-Harps, president of the Griffin Branch National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, questioned the fee.
“Why are we being charged a fee to use the new senior center?” Walker-Harps asked County Manager William Wilson Jr. and Parks & Recreation Department Director Louis Greene at Saturday’s NAACP meeting with county officials. “We already paid for it."
Greene said that the old senior center was 6,500 square feet and fees were charged for some services. The new center is 4 1/2 times bigger.
“We have to fund utilities, cleaning and are not adding staff,” he said. “That’s why, it’s not budgeted for this year.”
Greene said, “The $25 at 1,000 seniors, will help to fund it at a time when the county is supposed to cut the budget by 4 percent. I hope the rental of a banquet hall will offset some of the expenses.”
Greene said the $25 fee is “a one-time cost for the whole year, not monthly like some of the fitness clubs.”
Wilson and Greene said that the new senior center took longer than planned, but the project changed from adding 3,000 feet and losing parking at the old building to the development of a 27,000-square-foot facility.
“We expanded the level of service,” Wilson said. “The project will be well worth it.”
He said, "Before there was one pool table, now there are two, before computer classes used other's facilities, now it’s in-house, in a dedicated space with all new equipment. Ceramics has expanded by three times, there’s an exercise room with equipment, something we never had before.”
Wilson said, “We’ve greatly expanded the programs out there. Shuffleboard has its own room with two courts.”
Greene said that everyone will have their own card "so we can keep up with the services we need to increase or decrease. It is a minimal charge for the whole year.”
Walker-Harps was concerned that people who had been going to the senior center for some time would no longer be able to go because of the cost, and she said she would be in contact with Greene if she hears of any complaints.
Greene and Wilson invited everyone out, as the center is open now, Monday through Friday, but explained that the county is holding off on a grand opening until the library/living room is completed. Wilson said that the room was added back in to the plans, thanks to a donation, but there was a delay due to construction of the fireplace and the carpet not matching.