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Monday, December 10 , 2018, 2:57 pm | Mostly Cloudy 62º


Guadalupe Council Agrees Not to Leave the Senior Center in the Dark

The city accepts new terms for rent and utilities with the Community Action Commission, which provides lunches and programs for seniors

An order to shut off utilities at the Guadalupe Senior Center has been avoided after the City Council agreed to the terms sought by Community Action Commission of Santa Barbara County in the landlord-tenant dispute.

The Guadalupe City Council voted Tuesday night to accept the CAC’s offer to pay $4,000 for utilities and rent annually, while keeping the water, sewer, gas and electricity in the city’s name for the Senior Center, 4545 10th St. 

City staff also will negotiate with the CAC regarding shortening its lease, which isn’t set to expire until 2019.

The issue stems from a dispute about who should pay utilities at the building, leased to the CAC but also used by other groups. The city was poised to shut off utilities by Friday, if the CAC hadn’t transferred them into the group’s name.

“This is a difficult situation for everyone — our organization and all of you trying to address tough issues facing your community, and most importantly, the seniors who are so dependent on us for our help,” CAC Executive Director Fran Forman said. “We are solidly committed to collaboratively continue our engagement with you to resolve our concerns and contentions. We are committed to this community and the seniors that we serve.”

She said CAC representatives viewed the city’s ultimatum as “most troubling” because it shut down collaborative attempts to reach a deal. She also asked that the council hold off taking action until after the holidays.

“It is our hope that we can all work absent threats and ultimatums in short order to achieve a solution that addresses everyone’s concerns — most importantly those most vulnerable among us,” Forman said, adding that if the council voted to shut off utilities by Friday the group would look for another location to operate.

The city and the CAC entered into a 10-year lease in 2009, setting rent at $200 a month and requiring the nonprofit organization to put utilities in the CAC’s name and to pay for them. However, water, sewer, electricity and gas remain in the city’s name and have been paid by the city.

“We have no line item in our budget to pay the utilities on the Senior Center,” Mayor Frances Romero said. “This has been something that’s been going on for five years to the tune of about $4,000 a year.” 

She added that the city has tried to collaborate with the CAC.

“I don’t see this as a threat or ultimatum,” Romero said. “At some point there has to be something to shoot for because we have been kind of drifting along on this issue for well over the last two months without any real movement or discussion.”

Since the lease began five years ago, the CAC has never paid utilities, which amounted to $4,100 for 2013-14. The city has tried for several months to get the CAC to put the utilities in the organization's name.

Forman, who signed the lease in 2009, said the organization could not meet the terms of the lease due to the $12,000 deficit for operating the Guadalupe Senior Center program.

The city had offered a compromise — renegotiate the lease terms so the CAC would pay $1 a year for rent plus all utility costs. This meant that instead of $2,400 annually in rent plus more $4,000 in utilities, the CAC would pay $4,100 for both. 

However, the city staff had pushed for the CAC to transfer the accounts into its name, but CAC officials had balked at doing so because other groups use the building and utilities.

the CAC made a counteroffer, suggesting it pay $4,000 a year to cover rent and utilities and keep utilities in the city’s name. 

The CAC provides senior nutrition services at the site, but also operates the Senior Center programs there. Guadalupe is the only location the CAC oversees senior programs among the 12 locations it serves the senior nutrition meals.

Forman also suggested the city issue a request for proposals to find a different organization to run the Senior Center programs.

Noozhawk North County editor Janene Scully can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.

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