Seniors fight for Shawnee Senior Center

Data pix.

SHAWNEE, Okla. - Residents in Shawnee came out in force to fight potential changes at a community pillar, their senior center.

"Shawnee senior citizen center is my life," said Corina Pickens.

Seniors spoke out and packed the room at Shawnee City Hall. They were there for the Shawnee Senior Center and the people that work there.

"They do so much help, so much good for these seniors," said Brittany Miller, Shawnee resident.

On Monday, the city commission voted to accept the recommendation of the city manager Eric Benson that the contract with the center not be renewed

"We are examining each and every expenditure of the city."

The center is run by a private board. It contracts with the City of Shawnee to get about $116,000 a year.

Center director Kate Joyce said they get about the same amount in private donations and grants. That makes up their budget.

Recently, there have been allegations of financial mismanagement.

"We have our books open to anyone who wants to see them," Joyce said.

"I really don’t want to get into the particulars of the issues that I know of that we had with them, some of those are fiscal and some of them are minor, but fact of the matter is they are there and need to be addressed," said Shawnee Mayor Richard Finley.

The current contract runs through June 30.

The mayor said the commission will take the recommendations and talk it over as a council before voting in the coming weeks.

"The senior center is not closing. It is a very important function provided by our community," said Eric Benson, acting Shawnee city manager.

"I would say, if you continue to keep Eric Benson as interim city manager, you are not doing your due diligence," said Shawnee Senior Center attendee Carole Pool.

Some seniors like Poole said a decision about the senior center's future has already been made.

"It's already a done deal. It's already taken care of. Mr. Benson, the city manager, has already got his staff ready to take over, and he has already let the staff that’s there now know that they will be unemployed the 30th of June," Pool said.

"We are going to address how best we can serve the senior citizens sector of our community, and we will either contract with existing people or not," Finley said.

"Kate and people that are there now have really made it what it is. Even though it may stay there and function, I don’t think it will ever be the same," said Dena Anderson, Shawnee Senior Center attendee.

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