More object to closing Lake Senior Center

February 1, 2018

By Pat Maurer

More and more people are writing letters objecting to the County Commission’s January 17 decision to close the Lake Senior Center.

The decision was made following a recommendation from Clare Senior Services Director Lori (Ware) Phelps. In an interview last week she said, “I understand why people are upset. It wasn’t an easy decision to make the needs of the seniors in our county are changing and that, and the condition of the DAV building, weighed heavily on our making the decision to close that site.”

The Disabled American Veterans building is the Lake site for meals. “The building is in bad shape and it’s not very safe,” Commission Chair Karen Lipovsky said in an interview with Review writer John Raffell. She said the “director felt we had to get rid of it.”

One reason given for closing the Lake mealsite was the poor condition of the DAV site, a claim  that is disputed by many.

One reason given for closing the Lake mealsite was the poor condition of the DAV site, a claim that is disputed by many.

Phelps said, “We are not closing the service to Lake area seniors, just the DAV location. We will still offer all of the same services to our seniors.” She said over the past two years, only an average of eight seniors go to the center at the DAV building daily. Phelps said one possible plan is to open something closer to Farwell to serve both communities’ seniors. “We are also looking at locations in all of the townships in the county,” she added.

Joyce Minch wrote, “Director Phelps stated to 9 & 10 News “the Board is actively looking for a new location”. Why, when there is nothing wrong with the DAV building we have now on School Street?  All but one picture the commissioners were showed, of some “clutter” which has “since been cleaned up”, were of the re-sale shop storage room. That has nothing to do with the senior dining and activity center. We do not make use of that space. Where is your proof of infestation and unsanitary conditions? They have never had a bad inspection by the health department. We hope the commissioners who have all been invited to come and see the facility for themselves will do so.

She added, citing difficulties she would have with transportation to another site, “Please don’t take away the one opportunity for fellowship we have left at our age in our town.”

In last week’s interview, Phelps said, “Our demographics led to the business decision to relocate in order to reach more people. The Lake [DAV] site is in disrepair.

Garfield Township Fire Chief Kevin Tubbs disagreed. On behalf of the seniors who attend the site, Registered Nurse Gay Ann Messier said Tubbs told her inspections are done on a regular basis annually for the Commission on Aging. “Approximately six weeks ago, Director Lori Phelps contacted him to do another walk through inspection. He ‘found no fire hazards or life safety issues’.”

In a new letter received at the Review this week, Messier said, “Director Phelps stated “The Lake DAV site is in disrepair… we are not in the business to keep their building open”. You are in it to advocate for the senior citizens of Clare County. Instead, you strip them of their dining and activity center without a feasible alternative.” She continued, “The DAV building may be old and not up to your personal standards. It is not a Harrison Palace or Clare Castle but it is structurally sound, clean and suitable for the seniors who participate in the program.”

She added, “Clare Senior Services also says “the parking area at the DAV building in Lake is not handicapped accessible and in poor condition.” Another falsehood. If that was the case, how could the facility accommodate the wheelchair bound elders from Tendercare/Medilodge on their monthly outings for years?”

Veteran and Lake Station Senior Dorn L Blanchard wrote, “I read that it’s only an “average” of 8 that go there daily. Does that include the Snow birds? Is it not strange that a “decision” to close the Lake Senior Center was made in the dead of winter? At a time when a number of those seniors, who somehow can, have gone south for the season to keep the chill from their bones. They likely have no idea what has happened, and if so, are too far away to tender their concerns and objections.”

He continued, “On to the DAV building being “Unsafe”. It’s a brick building with a good roof. The heat, water, lights and such work as they’re supposed to. It has passed the safety inspection twice within one year, with Fire Chief Kevin Tubbs finding no concerns as threatening conditions. Further, it’s virtually just a few yards across the street from the Garfield Township Fire Department where all their firemen and EMTs would report in for ANY 911 emergency call.”

DAV Commander Jason Vaughn wrote, “As members of D.A.V. Chapter 105 in Lake, MI, we take serious issue with Lori Ware Phelps degradation of our DAV Chapter 105 home of the Disabled American Veterans.”’

He wrote, “In 30 plus years we have had nothing but praise for our building on School Street from Senior Services and Senior Citizens. What Lori Ware Phelps has said borders on slander, liable and defamation. Whatever her motive may be, like wanting all Senior Services eventually in Harrison, MI, will not benefit outlying areas. We welcome anyone and all to come and see our beautiful building that we are very proud of.”

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