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WF commission agrees to fund start-up costs for senior center

West Fargo's senior population, estimated at nearly 4,000, is one step closer to having their own center to meet, socialize and enjoy a nutritious onsite meal.

West Fargo City Commissioners approved a $9,000 request Monday night to subsidize a senior citizen's center program from Sept. 1 to Dec. 31, 2010. Part of the request also included a $25,000 commitment from the city in their 2011 budget to further fund the center through that year.

West Fargo Assistant Police Chief Mike Reitan, who serves as chairman of the West Fargo Senior Citizen's Committee, appeared before the commission to provide an update of the committee's progress and to highlight the short- and long-term goals set out in a strategic plan for the center.

He said the current objectives of the committee are to receive a financial commitment from the city and the commitment from other local entities to provide space or services. To this point, the Valley Senior Services Program has expressed an interest in providing noon meals Monday through Friday; the West Fargo  Park District has suggested a variety of health, fitness and entertainment activities which could be made available; and Faith Lutheran Church representatives have indicated an openness to allowing the use of their fellowship hall, at 127 2nd Ave. E., as the initial meeting place at a cost of $60 per day.

Other startup costs involved with the center would include: an $800 nonprofit filing fee; insurance coverage of approximately $1500; and other incidental expenses fees involving equipment, maintenance, and supplies.

Reitan said the plan would be to establish a senior committee board of officers who would represent the center on behalf of the program. Income sources, in addition, to the city for the proposed 501C3 nonprofit organization are projected to include private donations, federal, state and county grants, fundraising activities, and fees or free will donations.

Reitan said a role of the group will also be getting the word out to the community. Presentations will be scheduled for the West Fargo Park Board, Faith Lutheran and the other partners at some time in the near future for the purpose of informing and updating and formalizing agreements.

He added that the word he has been hearing so far out in the community is that "a senior center is long overdue and people are really excited about the possibility."

"This has been a learning process for all of us," Reitan said. "We have been adjusting as we go along. We have great ideas and a great program we can provide. We know that we need to move slowly and start out small by focusing on the noon meal and taking it one step at a time from there. If we can provide that and develop fellowship and bring the park programs in along the way, the program will continue to thrive. Then the problem will be how to control expansion. On that note, we are looking at today and tomorrow."

Mayor Rich Mattern said he commended the committee on their excellent plan, adding he would like an evaluation mechanism added, "something to go by down the road. That would be very helpful to us as a commission as we have to sell it to the community also. I think it's a very, very good plan."

In addition to Reitan, other members of the committee include: Marlene Batterberry, Frank Lenzmeier, Eric Rogne, Al Vetter, LeAnne Dressel, Judy Millar, Vicki Schmidt, Brenda Warren, Marvin Leidal, and Edith Sloat.

The commission voted unanimously to allocate the $9,000 which will come out of a contingency line item from the 2010 budget, but said they couldn't commit to the $25,000 for next year at the present but would consider it during 2011 budget talks which will be getting underway shortly.