By Robert Steadman
According to the National Association of Counties, Grand Traverse County will receive $18 million in federal American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funds: half this year and the remainder in 2022. This money is for infrastructure including high priority structures and cannot be used to reduce taxes.
This new money makes it possible for the county to build a new Senior Center without stripping the county budget of funds required for other priorities. We propose the county use ARPA funds and its superb bonding rating to build. The decision of the commissioners on how much of those ARPA funds would be used would determine the required bonding amount.
In September of 2018 the Grand Traverse County Board of Commissioners and the City Commission joined in a resolution stating their agreement that the current Senior Center would be razed and a new senior center built on the current site. A new senior center has been waiting substantially more than 20 years and should have very high priority since it will serve almost 40 percent of the county population. The proposed new Senior Center has already been designed, at substantial expense, for its current site. Grand Traverse seniors have overwhelmingly supported the building design and site.
Extension of the current senior support millage at a level needed for support of the county’s senior network and the Commission on Aging would continue to be inexpensive. The Commission on Aging needs new facilities and there are two options available. The county can build offices for the Commission on LaFranier in the county complex or the design of the Senior Center on the bay can be modified to make it capable of handling the Commission’s office needs.
Does anyone truly believe Traverse City residents would turn down an extended lease of the area in Milliken Park required for a senior center so long as the city retains control of the beautiful beach and sufficient parking for its use? I remind the county of its publicized vision statement defining its role working with the city.
The Grand Traverse County Board of Commissioners envisions a community that preserves the beautiful and healthy environment making Grand Traverse County a desirable community in which to live. Where the safety of its community is of utmost concern. Who focuses on the well-being of all its people. A county government that collaborates with other units of government on common issues for the benefit of the community and its individuals.
The county and city agreed to collaborate in 2018. Together they can build a Senior Center and county-wide senior network appropriate in its beauty and scope for our expanding, dynamic hub in northern Michigan. Our county and city are not second class. We deserve more than a second class or “satellite” Senior Center on the bay. We have an extraordinary parkland site. Let’s build an extraordinary senior center there.
About the author: Robert Steadman is the president of Senior Center Friends in Traverse City.