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Senior Center strives for independence despite push for more county involvement

(2/21) The Frederick County Department of Aging doesn’t like it when seniors at the Thurmont Senior Citizens Center try to prepare their own lunches.

When the Thurmont Senior Citizens Center wants to sponsor a potluck lunch, whether as a fundraiser or just an opportunity for fellowshipping, they have to do it without some of the regulars at the center. The county van that transports seniors to the center takes anyone who doesn’t want to participate in the potluck lunch in Thurmont to the Emmitsburg Senior Citizens Center for lunch that day.

“That’s the most ridiculous thing I’ve ever heard,” said Senior Commission member Carol Hutson during the Jan. 7 meeting of the Thurmont Senior Commission.

However, Frederick County Department of Aging Director Carolyn True said that because the department is a county agency, it needs to follow regulations that are sometimes beyond her control.

“The health department has told us we cannot have pot-luck meals because of concerns over how meals are prepared and whether they were prepared in sanitary conditions,” True said.

Though the county provides transportation to the center for seniors, it does so in a limited time frame. Thurmont Senior Commission member Helen Deluca said the county is willing to discuss expanding the hours, but only if the county is added to the senior center lease. However, True said Thurmont’s center gets about the same amount of transportation hours as other centers, but drivers and resources are limited.

These are just two ways in which the goals of the county department of aging, which provides services inside the center, conflicts with Thurmont Senior Citizens Center Board of Directors, which provides material and furniture inside the building it rents from the Thurmont town government, differ.

The Thurmont Senior Center is the only center in the county not owned by Frederick County. County officials would like that to change and have tried unsuccessfully for years to be added to the lease between Thurmont and the senior center board of directors.

Commission Chairman Wilbur Buehrer suggested that perhaps the county should be added to the lease.

“Then it would be a county-owned facility member,” Goodenough told him.

True says that wouldn’t be the case, but the county is paying for electrical service, water and sewer service and maintaining the kitchen equipment in the center, among other things. Because all of these things deal with the building, she feels the county should be signatory to the lease, but it does not mean the building would be county owned.

“One of the handicaps here is that it is not a county owned building,” Buehrer said.
Deluca didn’t favor the idea. She said if the center became county owned, the $25,000 treasury for the senior center, earned locally to support local seniors, would become county funds to be spent where the department of aging chose to spend it.

“It’s not our money, and it won’t be,” True said. “That’s an unfounded worry.”

Buehrer said the county provides a lot of services to the center. While no one argued that point, Deluca pointed out that the increase in county services has really only happened in the past few years.

“We even paid for the telephone,” Deluca said. “We didn’t need it. Anna (Rollins, the center director who is a county employee) did. If we allow them anymore foothold, they’ll take over completely.”

Thurmont Commissioner Bob Lookingbill, senior commission liaison, seemed to agree. “The way I’ve been hearing it, the city’s not the problem. It’s the county. They want you to name your baby after them and then give it to them,” he said.

True said, “We’re not trying to make things difficult, but there are certain expectations and regulations I’m working under.”

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