Letter to the editor: Reader discusses ADRC’s exclusion from Community Center
I would like our community to know that the Aging and Disability Resource Center – Central Wisconsin (ADRC) will not be included in the Community Center — the old library — once it is remodeled. I feel this is a total disservice to the seniors and disabled adults served by the ADRC.
Having served as the chair of the Library and Community Center Steering Committee, a committee the common council created and authorized in Resolution 2012-23, and having reviewed countless architectural drawings, the ADRC was included in the plans from day one. This was going to be a public- and privately-funded element of the project.
Based on the fact that the money raised would go to the entire public/private project, hundreds of people donated or pledged contributions over a period of several years. Some individuals may have had a bias for the library, and others may have had a similar bias to support the Community Center. Regardless, everyone gave to the entire project.
Approximately $5.5 million was raised, compliments of a very generous Marshfield area community. Three million dollars was pledged by the city.
My question is, “Why would anyone ever, ever contribute to another private/public-funded project in the future?” The community spoke loud and clear that they supported the entire project. Why has the common council refused to follow through with its end of the bargain?
The Nov. 22 common council meeting was the first time any lease negotiation with the ADRC was discussed in open session.
The common council met in closed session on Sept. 13, Oct. 25, and Nov. 8 to discuss the agenda item “Lease terms with ADRC for community center space.” On Nov. 9 a draft lease was forwarded to Linda Weitz, executive director of the ADRC. On Nov. 10 the ADRC board of directors approved the following motion: “Give the Executive Director the authority to express to the City of Marshfield that the ADRC-CW Board of Directors is interested in moving into the new community center, but the terms of the proposed draft lease are unacceptable, and the Board would like to enter into formal, open negotiations.”
The information packet for the Nov. 22 common council meeting included a memo dated Nov. 18 from City Administrator Steve Barg that said, “Staff recommends that the council consider this request (to enter into formal, open negotiations). … If the council wants to enter into negotiations, staff strongly suggests authorizing a team (from among the mayor and council members) to meet with ADRC representatives for this purpose.”
After three motions — one more that died for a lack of a second — and discussion before and after each motion, the common council decided to not negotiate a lease with the ADRC.
One council objection was the fear that the ADRC could become “privatized.” I contacted Linda Seemeyer, secretary of the Wisconsin Department of Health Services, and received the following response from Anne Olson, director of the Office for Resource Center Development Bureau of Aging and Disability Resources:
“There is no major change in store for ADRCs of which we are aware. Wisconsin’s ADRCs provide a valued service in their local communities and have been widely recognized as a national model for others to emulate.”
The common council’s other objection was having to borrow the estimated $400,000 for the buildout of the ADRC’s 3,500 square feet of office space in the community center, an amount the ADRC would reimburse to the city over the 10-year term of the lease. (I was told the primary reason for the high cost was the need to install separate heating and air conditioning units.) In addition to paying back the buildout, the ADRC would pay an additional monthly fee of $11,000 for utilities, an amount that had already been added into next year’s city budget as income.
The draft lease stated the ADRC would have to provide $100,000 up front. The ADRC does not have $100,000 lying around. The organization’s money is used to provide services to disabled and older adults.
Weitz attended the Oct. 25 and Nov. 22 meetings and spoke during the public comments periods. She stayed throughout the meetings, including the time the council spent in closed session in the event there would be questions for which the council needed answers. There were none.
With senior activities moving to the Community Center once it is remodeled, the ADRC is a perfect fit for seniors and adults with disabilities to do their “one-stop-shopping” for answers on Medicare, social security, nutrition, and how to make their homes safe and handicapped accessible so they are able to stay in the homes they love. It is much more cost effective to keep a senior in his or her home with assistance from programs like the ADRC than it is for him or her to go to an assisted living facility or a nursing home with Medicare and Medicaid footing the bill, which we all end up paying for in the end.
The sad part of this whole deal is that the common council only “negotiated” the lease among themselves and city staff, and they never sought any input from the ADRC, nor did they ever ask what the ADRC objected to in the draft lease, nor did they agree to ever meet with the ADRC to see if there was some common ground that could be agreed upon.