By Kimberly Naghtin
Meridian Times staff writer
OKEMOS — Senior citizens showed up at the Feb. 7 township meeting and the board agreed to increase funding for the Senior Center, located off of Kinawa Road in Okemos, by increasing property taxes .5 mill.
Citizens currently pay .10 mill in property taxes toward the senior center and would now pay .15 mill. According the the township property taxes have declined over the last few years. The .10 mill is currently divided among the center, recreation activities and human services.
Jerry Cvengros, who uses the senior center, said that with more seniors in the township according to the 2010 Census, that this is something the community would benefit from.
Treasurer Julie Brixie said that the millage was lower than she expected and that with the growing population of seniors in the community the .15 millage was something to put on the ballot.
Brixie put the .15 millage into perspective by saying the increase would cost households roughly $5 per year.
Senior center member Ed Gillespie said, “Five dollars a year is probably less than you spend at the drive-through or on one cup of Starbucks coffee.”
Cvengros said that the center has a part-time director and really needs a full-time director.
By increasing the millage by .5 of a mill the center would be able to hire a full-time director, and possibly a second part-time and full-time director.
The .5 increase would also allow the center to be open more hours. It is now open from 9a.m.-3p.m. Monday through Friday.
Senior Center member Barb Kissling said, “The senior center provides a social network for an isolated part of the community.” She said that the center provides a place for seniors to make friends and interact with others.
Kissling said that when she looks around the room, she sees people reading on the couch, playing games of Scrabble and bridge and interacting.
She said, “It provides mental stimulation for an age group of people whose minds are diminishing.”
Providing mental stimulation was important to many of the members who spoke at the meeting.
Member Jeff Sharp said that he enjoys taking courses and acquiring skills that he couldn’t without the senior center. He said that it helps seniors in the community gain independence and a sense of self worth through socializing.
Sharp said, “America is greying, meaning we are living longer and healthier lives. The senior center is a place where us greying Americans can interact with others and we must preserve the center for years to come.”