October 22, 2021

Committee forwards plan for new senior center in Cortland

The search for a new home for the Cortland city senior center is winding down after a committee of the Cortland County Legislature voted Wednesday to send to the full Legislature a plan to lease a suite at Crescent Commons on South Main Street.

It’s been seven months since the seniors were kicked out of the Cortland County Office Building when its space was converted into an entry and security station. For months, they’ve had their bimonthly meetings at the American Legion and played shuffleboard three times a week at the St. Charles Hotel. This fall, they’ll once again have their own space.

“We were actually all doing a little dance, we were so excited,” said club President Sharon Lanphear. “There are no words to describe it — we’re going to have our place, and we can have everything and all be there together.”

The Health and Human Services Committee had a special meeting Thursday to discuss the county Area Agency on Aging’s plan for the seniors, featuring a central hub and a few satellite sites in outlying areas.

The county plans to reduce spending by more than $200,000 a year by losing seven managers when it transitions to the central hub model, said Liz Haskins, director of the Area Agency on Aging. Each satellite would get either $8,500 or $11,500 a year from the county, for at least five satellite sites.

“I think it’s important that we do this and we need to let those folks know that we still care about them and that we’re going to take care of their needs,” said Legislator Ann Homer (D-Cortland).

The central hub will be located in Suite B2 of the Crescent Commons building at 165 Main St. The building was recently renovated, and the county has received permission from the owner, David Yaman, to modify the suite for the senior center, including knocking down walls to create a larger space.

“When we toured this property, all the folks that were there were very much in agreement that this was the right place,” Haskins said. “We’re very excited and very thankful that Mr. Yaman has agreed to offer us something that we can afford within our budget.”

The county will pay $2,000 a month for the 2,200-square-foot suite. The cost of renovations is yet to be determined.

“It’s been a long process, but I’m happy to see that it’s coming together,” Haskins said.

The full Legislature will have the final vote on Thursday, and if the proposal is approved then the Cortland site could be open to seniors by the end of September.

“This space is going to allow us to set it up so the seniors can participate in the types of activities they want to,” said committee Chairwoman Cathy Bischoff. “I’m looking forward to the day we open for the seniors to come in and just be wowed.”

The committee also voted unanimously, in favor of entering a contract with Cortland Transit and taxi companies to transport seniors, taking the money from a $5,600 state allocation traditionally used for bus tokens. Legislators Richard Stock (D-Cortland), Douglas Bentley (D-Cortland) and Joseph Nauseef (U-Cortlandville) were absent.

“There’s a long-standing need,” Haskins said. “If they need it for non-Medicaid individuals, there’s really very limited availability for them to access transportation. This is a way that we can meet these needs better — for all of the county and not just the city.”

Seniors in outlying areas will have the option of traveling to the Cortland site, or they can choose to apply for a county-funded grant that would allow them to continue running on their own.

“I think that it really makes them feel like, ‘Yeah, we’re seniors, but we’re also a club.,’ and they can do whatever they want — we don’t tell them how to do it,” said Legislator Kevin Fitch (R-Homer, Preble).

The county expects to have the grant applications available by the end of July.

The county has so far received letters of intent from two senior centers looking to become satellite sites, and expect a third letter in the coming week.

“We don’t want to see any of these centers closed down we want them to stay open and we’re here to help in any way we can,” Haskins said. “So just because one might close, we’re going to reach out and try to figure out if there is another opportunity for us to work with them or another entity to try to make sure we stay in contact with them out there.”