Despite the urging of staff and the pleading of senior residents, the Carpinteria City Council made no decision Monday toward launching plans for an interim senior center or to providing seniors with dedicated services.
The council voted 5-0 instead to ask staff to provide more specifics on how to proceed, including how much it would cost to run an interim gathering “hub” and hire a staffer to run the place.
They asked staff to return at a future meeting with specific options to continue on, but gave them no deadline.
Despite the lack of action, council members still noted the importance of providing a place for seniors to gather and spend time together during the day.
“I see this as a high priority,” Councilmember Gregg Carty said. “We need a budget as soon as we can get one.”
He suggested staff do more research on obtaining grants and other funding “wherever we can get them.”
One speaker told the council that she and other seniors aren’t looking for a place that’s exquisite or beautiful, just one that’s cozy and comfortable, “where we can sit and read the paper, have a cup of coffee and enjoy the fact that we’ve come to socialize with other persons in the community.”
City staff told the council there’s a clear need for adult/senior programming services as well as a gathering site for older residents to meet and congregate with their peers.
“Carpinteria’s median age is nearly 18% higher than the state average, and residents 60 and over make up 27.4% of Carpinteria’s population compared to 19.7% for the state and 20.4% for the county,” staff said in its report to the council.
“Despite the large proportion of active adults and seniors within the community, Carpinteria does not offer a cohesive active adult/senior programming menu, nor does it have a dedicated center for such programs to occur.”
“Carpinteria is the only city in Santa Barbara County, other than the City of Guadalupe, that does not offer such programming, either through the city, an outside agency or some combination of the two.”
Following a community needs assessment survey, staff urged the council to first focus efforts on securing an interim location for an active adult/senior center. The center will serve as a “hub” for immediate programming and as a platform for future long-term programming discussions, staff said.
Staff said it feels confident “that an interim active adult/senior center location can be quickly identified and, if authorized, secured for programming.”
Assistant City Manager Michael Hernandez told the council Monday that the city could partner with an existing resource — maybe a church or a mobile home park — at a “very low, affordable” cost.
He said it might cost $100,000 for a paid staffer to run the hub, but that person would be in charge of programming, volunteer coordination, scheduling, grant administration, contracts and agreements, program promotions, and facility management.”
That person’s efforts, especially in terms of seeking grants, could potentially bring in three or four times more than the city spends. Mr. Hernandez said.
He said he’s found himself in a classic chicken-egg situation, with some urging staff to have programming in mind before reaching out to potential partners, and others urging the opposite.
“We don’t have a budget yet or a location,” he said. “It’s hard to move forward without knowing what it would cost us. The hub would be a starting point and potentially we could evolve from there.”
Vice Mayor Al Clark suggested staff reach out to other service providers in town — “things we can tap into.”
“We should follow up on the needs for the hub before we zero in on real estate. If we can get anything for free, fine.”