The Tribune Democrat, Johnstown, PA

Local News

October 12, 2012

Future of senior centers uncertain

EBENSBURG — The Cambria County commissioners, looking at reducing operating costs at the nine senior centers in the county, said Thursday they’ve not ruled out anything from cutting hours to eliminating a center.

“Our goal is to keep all open, but we’re looking at alternatives,” Commissioner Thomas Chernisky said.

The discussion on the senior centers came as Cresson Mayor Patrick Mulhern, who is a senior citizen, said that reports have surfaced about possible closings.

“We’d like to know if this is a fact. If so, we should be warned. Are we in such dire need?” Mulhern questioned.

President Commissioner Douglas Lengenfelder assured Mulhern that no decisions have been made after Veil Griffith, administrator of the county Area Agency on Aging, said that cuts are coming in federal funds.

Cambria currently receives $6 million a year from the state, with some of that money coming from the federal government, she said.

Of the $6 million, $850,000 – or about 14 percent of the budget – goes for the nine senior centers, she said.

In neighboring Blair County, the number of centers was reduced to six from nine, and may be reduced further to four, Griffith said.

Mulhern suggested that the county, rather than closing any centers, should dip into the $1-million plus AAA reserve funds.

Griffith said, however, that using the fund for operating costs could deplete it within three years, leaving nothing for unexpected expenditures.

She said that some funds currently are being used for replacing the roof at the Senior Center of Greater Johnstown and a dishwasher and garbage disposal at another center.

Rather than depleting the fund and then having to take drastic measures three years down the road, Lengenfelder said the commissioners are trying to find ways to continue operations through “a controlled process.”

Mulhern, while saying he understands the commissioners’ financial dilemma, said “Seniors seem to be getting kicked on from the federal government on down.”

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