Seniors want their say

TRACY RESIDENT KEN WITT had plenty to say to the Tracy City Council at Monday’s meeting. Witt, representing the senior community of Tracy, expressed his unequivocal disappointment over how the senior center process is moving ahead. Photo / Per Peterson

Members of  Tracy’s senior community at Monday’s city council meeting continued to lobby for more of a voice when it comes to determining their future home

By Per Peterson

The floor was open — more than it ever has been — at the Tracy City Council meeting Monday. And members of Tracy’s senior community took full advantage to voice their concerns about the future of the senior center.

The council voted to change its public comment policy by loosening restrictions on its public comment policy and agreeing that there should be at least some give-and-take between them and any community member who wishes to speak their mind. After, a few seniors in town spoke their mind, most notably Ken Witt, who was first to speak on the seniors’ behalf.

Witt first handed out a document highlighting issues with short-term service for seniors at the Tracy Eagles Club. When Witt was stopped after his three minutes, his talk turned tense.

“I guess you guys can do whatever the hell you want to do, but you guys are headed in the wrong direction, I can guarantee you that,” said Witt. “I’m pretty disappointed with a lot of you already. Don’t take it personally, it’s your policies.”

Witt was then encouraged to continue by council member Ron Koopman.

“We need to hear this,” said Koopman.

Witt continued reading from the list that was put together. Most notably, he said seniors would like to be able to have lunch during their time at the Eagles Club (the council voted at its last meeting to use the Eagles Club for a temporary location so they can stay on the ground level, but without having access to the kitchen).

“Throwing a bag of cookies on the table everyday is not the best thing to do,” he said.

Witt also noted that the pancake breakfast needs to be brought back and said most of the kitchen equipment that is still owned by the Senior Center was purchased with monies from that event. He also said Lutheran Social Services not being in town any longer offers a “major hardship” for seniors and for senior dining, especially during a pandemic, when seniors aren’t allowed to gather in public.

“The pressure is greater during this time, and we don’t believe there is reason for all this extra tension — it’s unfortunate that LSS had to leave,” said Witt.

Ruth Sanders, representing the Eagles, said she didn’t think the group would object to the idea of hosting the pancake breakfast, but it would involve some set-up time.

“Our motto is ‘People Helping People,’ so when things come up in the community where people need something, we try to help out,” said Sanders, who does own a food handler’s license. She said under new guidelines, she can appoint someone to be in charge on-site during events like the pancake breakfast.

As a reminder to the council, Witt added that a number of senior groups were displaced by the sale of the Multi-Purpose Center, including the Golden Age group and the potluck group, and that some 80 people took advantage of LSS’s $2 meal a few times every year.

“Since the city administration seems to be moving forward without any input from seniors about service … we’re wondering which of these groups are gonna be cut out of the service, because it looks right now like several will be,” Witt said. “It just seems like in the last two months, seniors have gotten more bad news than good news. Maybe our faith in our city leaders is a little bit shaken.”

Council member George Landuyt conceded that the council might have been a “little bit” wrong in not gathering enough information from the senior community.

Koopman added he would like to see the senior community choose two or three people to work with City Administrator Erik Hansen and EDA Director Jeff Carpenter, as well as the Eagles Club, so seniors can have a direct hand in the decision-making process.

Hansen said nothing had been decided as of now, and spoke about the need to balance this issue with others the City is facing.

“We have a lot of really more urgent things that, as a staff, we’re working on,” he said. “That’s not to diminish the importance of this for folks that unfortunately have suffered greatly … but there are a lot of assumptions about what has been done.”

See this week’s Headlight Herald for more on this article.