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Thurmont and county move toward senior center MOU

(10/16)  Equitable funding for Thurmont area seniors has long been a contentious issue between the Thurmont Senior Center Board, the Thurmont Town Commissioners and Frederick County Department of Aging. However, after a meeting with all parties on Oct. 8, momentum seems to me moving toward a new lease between the Senior Center Board and the town commissioners and a memo of understanding between the commissioners and the Department of Aging.

“There’s been a very strong adversarial relationship between the Thurmont Senior Center and the Department of Aging and we want to get beyond that,” said Thurmont Senior Commission Chairman Bill Buehrer.

A few weeks ago, the Department of Aging prepared a list of expenses for all county senior centers, which showed that the funding the Thurmont Senior Center receives is roughly equal to what the other centers receive. However, it was pointed out that at least $6,000 allocated to the Thurmont Center for general operating expenses was actually for one-time expenses. Another item not addressed in the Oct. 8 meeting, but discussed in prior meetings between the town commissioners and the senior commission, is the fact that the Thurmont Center apparently gets no benefit from being a town-owned building which the county did not have to pay to build.

Austin Abraham, director of management services for Frederick County, said that the arrangement between the county and the Thurmont Senior Center is different from other arrangements; in some ways because of choice, in others because of the way it has evolved.

“This is a different arrangement and it’s hard for us to get our hands around it,” Abraham said.

He said that was one of the reasons for the meeting, to talk face to face and work through some of the issues so that the county and town could agree to a memo of understanding (MOU).

While there seemed to be little disagreement over the 20-point MOU, one area that raised some concern was an item that gave the Department of Aging “exclusive” use of the senior center between 8 a.m. and 4 p.m.

After some discussion, everyone realized that the use item needed to be reworded and that all the county had been seeking was that any non-county activities be coordinated with Anna Rollins at the senior center, to avoid conflicts.

Another item was how much the county should be paying for utilities. “I don’t think the Department of Aging should be responsible for any utility bill when you have a non-senior-oriented event,” said Carolyn True, director for the Frederick County Department of Aging.

It was suggested that somehow the non-senior events be pro-rated to reduce the county costs. When this seemed to become too complicated, the group decided that the town would simply come up with a monthly cost for utilities (electricity, water, natural gas and custodial) and charge it to the county in the form of rent rather than utilities.

By the end of the meeting, the group seemed to have a direction to move toward. The county will write up an MOU based on the comments from the meeting and present it to the town. Once the MOU is formalized, the town commissioners will also be able to move forward with signing the lease with the senior center board.

Helen Deluca, who is both a member of the Thurmont Senior Center Board and the Thurmont Senior Commission, said she still had some minor concerns, but all in all, “I like what I heard today.”

The MOU is expected to be completed sometime in January

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