Triple-Header Scheduled For Costa Mesa Council Tomorrow
Tuesday, June 10, 2014, the Costa Mesa City Council has a series of three meetings scheduled back-to-back-to-back beginning at 4:30, when the council and Planning Commission will hold a joint study session to discuss the 2014/2015 Planning Commission Goals. That meeting takes place in Conference Room 1A on the first floor of City Hall. You can read that agenda item and the list of goals HERE.
THEN POSSIBLE LITIGATION UPDATE
Then, theoretically at 5:45, the council will adjourn to the 5th Floor
FUTURE OF THE SENIOR CENTER
Then, theoretically, at 6:00 the council will hold a Special City Council meeting in Council Chambers to discuss the future of the Costa Mesa Senior Center. THIS is a very big deal. You can read the staff report HERE. If you are at all interested in the Costa Mesa Senior Center please take a few minutes to read the staff report.
SAVING THE SENIOR CENTER OR...?
In a nutshell, the staff is asking for the City Council to invoke the 90-day termination clause in the existing agreement between the City and the Costa Mesa Senior Corporation, HERE. They are also asking them to adopt a couple resolutions - one, HERE, to authorize an exception to the rules to permit hiring a retired employee (already identified) to run the place and another, HERE, to establish the new position - Senior Center Program Administrator. Interestingly, the resolution the council will be asked to authorize this new person has her starting to work tomorrow, June 10, 2014 - before the council will have considered this issue! And, the resolution refers to the position she will hold with two different titles - the one mentioned above AND as "Senior Center Director". It's not clear that the City Council has the authority to take over operations at the Senior Center tomorrow - or any date, for that matter. Yes, the City owns the building, but the Costa Mesa Senior Corporation runs the programs.
A SECURITY FIRM AND FREE MEMBERSHIP
They are also asking that the council authorize a three-year contract with a security firm to provide security for the Senior Center, HERE, AND to approve one (1) year of free membership for all seniors who sign up during the next fiscal year. Obviously, the staff must feel they have the authority to waive those fees - likely worth tens of thousands of dollars - but I don't know where it comes from.
A NEW AGREEMENT
Additionally, they've provided a draft agreement between the City and the Costa Mesa Senior Corporation, HERE, and a Senior Center Organizational Chart, HERE. However, that Draft Agreement HAS NOT been approved by the Costa Mesa Senior Corporation Board, but some of the things the council is being asked to approve clearly hinges on that agreement being approved.
If the council invokes the 90-day termination clause in the existing agreement, that means the Costa Mesa Senior Corporation will be ousted from the facility around the middle of September! If no new agreement has been signed, all the terms outlined in the draft are moot. In fact, the City could use the building for anything it chooses - homeless transitional housing, for example. In the meantime, what about the Senior programs? Presently the City has NO authority to take over the operations being provided by the Costa Mesa Senior Corporation. Even with the issuance of the 90-day notice it appears that they have no such authority.
CLEARLY, THE SENIOR CORP. BOARD IS OUT
WHAT ABOUT THE ALBERT DIXON FOUNDATION?
Also, among the things NOT mentioned is the Albert Dixon Foundation, a separate organization that controls the distribution of hundreds of thousands of dollars earmarked by a former Senior Center member to be used for senior programs. It is unclear what happens to that money if the Costa Mesa Senior Corporation is dissolved - which is clearly anticipated in the Draft Agreement included in the staff report. According to Assistant CEO Tammy Letourneau, the City is not entitled to the Albert Dixon Funds and does not need them to operate the Senior Center. According to Mike Scheafer, Chairman of the Albert Dixon Foundation Board, his organization has consistently provided funding to the Senior Center in the tens of thousands of dollars over the past five years or so. One can presume they will continue to try to find ways to fund programs for seniors in Costa Mesa in the future.
OUT OF MONEY?
The staff report tells us that these changes are necessary to save the Senior Center, which would run out of funds by the end of this month if something is not done. I could not get that assertion verified by members of the Senior Corporation Board I contacted. I have no reason to doubt that assertion, but there are those Albert Dixon Funds sitting there....
It seems to me that this has been a very heavy-handed process by the City staff. Yes, we want senior services to be provided at a high level. Yes, donations have dried up ever since Wendy Leece - responding to a couple complaints by members of the Senior Center a few years ago - cast a huge cloud on the management of the Center. Claims of mismanagement created fundraising difficulties from which the Center has not recovered. Without sufficient funds, programs have suffered and complaints have continued, which apparently leads us to the situation today.
Should there be changes made in the way affairs are managed at the Senior Center? Probably.
Should the City take over the operations of the Senior Center? Probably.
Is it critical that this change happen now - like tomorrow? Probably not.
Has the city staff rushed this process? Maybe. It looks like it.
Can the Senior Center be operated into the new fiscal year so the new agreement can be further refined? Probably.
Could the Albert Dixon Foundation Funds be used to help with that bridge? Maybe.
Should the negotiations continue between the City and the Senior Corporation continue? Certainly!
WHO WILL SHOW UP?
It will be VERY interesting to see how this shakes out tomorrow evening. In fact, since senior members of the Costa Mesa Senior Corporation Board seem flat-out exhausted by this process so far, I wonder if any of them will show up to speak to this issue? According to Letourneau, the objective of the City is to protect the seniors - to provide a safe, well-run facility and to provide necessary and important services to them. Speaking as one of "them" - I'm grateful for that concern. I just wish this transition could proceed without the chaos that presently exists.