Commentary: Letters against center are misleading

I could not let the misinformation in Tim Geddes' letter to the editor relating to the new senior center go uncorrected (Mailbag, March 14).

As background information, I am a member of the Huntington Beach Council on Aging's (HBCOA) board of directors. I have been involved with the concept of a new senior center since Jim Engle, then director of community services, held the first meeting with the consulting firm hired to give guidance to the city on its size and location. I have been actively involved with the planning for the new senior center since.

Geddes says, "The editorial all but ignores the sweetheart deals, City Hall intrigue and hijacking of the Pacific City Quimby Act funds." His "sweetheart deals" are undefined and in reality were not there. As for the Quimby Act money, senior centers across the nation are defined and function as recreational facilities and, as such, their use of Quimby funds is completely appropriate. There is no question that the use of Quimby Act money is allowed for construction of a senior center as long as it is associated with the parks areas.

I do agree that there has been a reduction in the current Quimby Act money and there may need to be some changes to the size of the construction under the current Quimby Act funding. But, again, I take exception to his statement, "There are no bond issues, corporate sponsorships or other fundraising possibilities that would begin to bridge the fiscal chasm this proposed project is facing." That comment is wishful thinking on his part and blatantly untrue.

The fact that the opposition has a lawsuit pending stops the HBCOA and the city from seeking funding until the litigation is concluded. No potential donor will provide or set aside money until litigation is complete. At that time both the HBCOA and the city can and will seek corporate, federal and private donations. There is money available in this country for a new senior center. We are already aware of potential donors.

It is also misleading when he says, "If today's seniors and their supporters want improved facilities now, the only prudent course is to refurbish the current Rodgers Senior Center to the tune of several million dollars."

The current Rodgers Senior Center is a set of World War II-era buildings that were cobbled together to create a temporary senior center. Previous articles have described the conditions within the building and how it has degraded over the years. You cannot just slap some paint on the building and shore up the underpinnings and say that is adequate for the senior population of Huntington Beach.

Of all of the possible sites the consultant identified, the current location was considered the most expensive for constructing a modern senior center. The current center is a disgrace to the city and the senior community. Our seniors deserve better than the oldest and most outdated center in this part of Orange County.

Finally, the residents of Huntington Beach voted for a new senior center in Central Park at Goldenwest Street and Talbert Avenue. The opposition to this enterprise seems to have forgotten or are ignoring that fact. The vote of the people is the very fundamental foundation of our nation.

ROBERT O. DETTLOFF is a Huntington Beach resident.

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