Source: Sherman Publications

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Letter to the editor
Jousting with Kalmar

October 05, 2011

Dear Editor,

Bill Kalmar indicated in his Sept. 28, 2011 letter that he was "…agitated, incensed and frustrated" when Township officials refer to the new Orion Center as a senior center. Maybe the citizens fighting for justice in the Eagle Valley Landfill fiasco should enlist him in their fight. If he can get this excited, he should be able to work up to an absolute frenzy on the landfill issue.

When Mr. Kalmar and I jousted on this issue on these pages, he responded to some observations and concerns I expressed by inferring I "…lacked appropriate grey matter" and that responding to a "diatribe such as one Bill Thompson constructed" becomes a battle of wits and that I was unarmed ( a trite reference).

Let me again make a few observations to try to put some of Kalmar's statements in proper context:

First, Orion Township has had a senior center for several years located in the Village. Operating costs are budgeted and paid for by the Township and include various fees paid by members. The current facility would have required extensive work over the next several years and did not have enough room or parking to accommodate the current membership.

Second, Kalmar refers to a defeated 2006 bond and millage that would have built a new senior center facility to be used by three communities, Orion, Oxford and Addison. This ill-advised proposal was for a $9.85 million dollar bond issue and an additional operating millage and was overwhelmingly defeated. Kalmar leaps to the conclusion that this means no new facility to house senior activities forever, no matter the condition of the current facility or what financing arrangements are cobbled together. He may not like the financing arrangements (I don't either), but this will be a "Community Center" no matter how people refer to it.

Third, as a member of the Senior Center Advisory Committee, I have asked for a pro-forma operating budget for the new facility for over six months with no success. I have been involved in the launch of several new facilities during my working days and I cannot think of one that didn't have an approved pro-forma operating budget prior to the investment. If we couldn't show we could fill the facility and afford to operate it, we didn't proceed. The Orion Center process seems backwards. While Kalmar thinks continued referral to the facility as a senior center means senior members should bear all the incremental costs, we don't even know what the costs will be. However, transferring the operating budget for the current senior center facility and the addition of the new senior membership fee may cover all the operating costs.

Fourth, as a senior, I don't care how people refer to the facility or what it is called. I am concerned that the new facility will continue to provide valuable services and activities to Orion seniors in a welcoming setting. That will be a challenge for the senior center staff in a mixed- use facility especially when most activities will require seniors to use stairs or an elevator.

Fifth, Kalmar notes that "All of us look forward to having a place in the community where residents can congregate…" It will cost to "congregate" at the Orion Center. In addition to the new fee for seniors, residents will have to "belong" to the center by paying an annual membership fee.

Bill Thompson