Senior Center proposal worth pursuing

The Medford City Council is on the right track in backing a proposal that the city's Parks and Recreation Department take over management of the Medford Senior Center.

The center, operating at 510 E. Main St. since 1973, has fallen on hard times. It lost its executive director and kitchen staff last year. Volunteers — some of them board members — are currently running everything.

That's no way to operate a successful center that brings people in and attracts new dues-paying members. Senior Center members and visitors deserve a well-run center that does a better job of marketing and developing new programs.

For an annual fee of $130,000, the Parks Department could hire a full-time program manager. That amount is well within the center's annual revenue estimate of $250,000. In addition, the city could help secure grants to improve the center, such as providing better access to the disabled.

The city would take responsibility for the center's social media presence and website, lending professional marketing expertise to boost participation among the city's 22,500 residents 55 and older. Membership, which stands at 680 now, could be significantly increased with better outreach.

Meanwhile, the board could devote its energies to fundraising without having to worry about day-to-day operations and making sure someone turns the lights off at night.

City councilors who had been skeptical were convinced in a recent study session that the proposal posed no cost and little financial risk to the city. The city transferred ownership of the property to the Rogue Valley Council on Aging in 1993, but it reverts to city ownership if it is not used as a senior center for 90 days.

In the worst-case scenario, if the center went under, the city would end up with the property. But that's hardly likely to happen.

What the Senior Center needs, the city is in a position to provide: professional management and marketing.

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