PADUCAH — There's still no word on when senior centers in Kentucky will reopen.
State data shows 81% of people in the state 65 and older are already vaccinated.
It's been 436 days since the Paducah-McCracken County Senior Center was open to the public.
"March 16th, 2020, that date will be forever burned in my memories as the day that we closed," said Executive Director Christine Thompson.
She's ready for the empty hallways to be filled with people. Right now, the only action is in the kitchen for the Meals on Wheels program.
A group of friends waited outside as the meals for hundreds of seniors were being prepared. They said they're ready for the center to open, because people they know have been vaccinated. They even keep their vaccine cards on hand. "I don't leave home without it," one man said of his card. His friends nodded in agreement.
During the pandemic, the Meals on Wheels program has been one of the center's most popular. Thompson said they've served 21,000 more people in 2020 alone.
Thompson asked the McCracken County Fiscal Court for money to get more technology for the program.
"The technology would help us basically run more efficiently. It would streamline our process," Thompson said. "It consisted of providing our drivers with GPS and also technology to capture the data that we are required to have."
The fiscal court denied the center's request for $14,715 to buy the technology earlier this month. County leaders cited the center's $1.9 million reserve account.
Thompson wants them to reconsider.
"That's not reoccurring revenue, what we have in our reserves," Thompson said. "Twenty percent of that is restricted funding, and the rest is invested according to our board investment policy."
McCracken County Commissioner Bill Bartleman said he's proud the senior center is so well run, but he said the fiscal court had to consider the center's financial standing compared to other organizations that requested money.
"It is obvious with a $1.9 million cash reserve, Paducah-McCracken County Senior Citizens can continue to provide its services without the use of $15,000 in county taxpayer funds," he said in a statement.
The senior center says it will move forward in another way to update its technology in preparation for its eventual reopening.
Local 6 sent an email to Gov. Andy Beshear's communications team asking when senior centers could open. We have not heard back.
The Purchase Area Development District's Aging and Independent Living Department said it has sent a plan to the state outlining how senior centers in our area can safely reopen.
Read the full statement from McCracken County Commissioner Bill Bartleman:
When the fiscal court receives requests for funds from outside organizations, we thoroughly review the request. One question I always ask myself is “If we don’t fund this request, will services have to be reduced or eliminated?”
As good stewards of taxpayer funds, we give money to outside organizations that need assistance to help fund programs that benefit citizens. This year, we received financial assistance requests from 13 outside organizations. After analyzing the requests, we funded four at the levels requested and reduced requests of 9 others. We saved taxpayers $114,000 that can be used for other worthy programs and services.
According to financial information filed with its application for funds, Paducah-McCracken County Senior Citizens has a surplus of nearly $1.9 million. The statement reported $160,000 in cash, $961,000 in certificates of deposits and $778,000 in short term investments. Its annual operating budget is $940,000, which means it has twice as much cash as it takes to fund services for one year. Most organizations operate on a margin of less than 15 percent.
It is obvious with a $1.9 million cash reserve, Paducah-McCracken County Senior Citizens can continue to provide it services without the use of $15,000 in county taxpayer funds.
The Paducah-McCracken County Senior Citizens is an important organization that provides valuable services for senior citizens, especially its program to provide hot meals. It is a well-run organization with top-notch leadership and volunteers, which is evidenced by the number of people served and its healthy financial condition. The answer to my question – “If we don’t fund this request, will services have to be reduced or eliminated” – is clear: No services will be reduced or eliminated and Paducah-McCracken County Senior Citizens will continue to have a healthy cash reserve.