UPDATE: Senior Citizens get year-long reprieve on center - WSMV Channel 4

UPDATE: Senior Citizens get year-long reprieve on center

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Snapshots of activities cover a board at the Senior Center. Snapshots of activities cover a board at the Senior Center.
UPDATE: A group of senior citizens fighting the city and a local mall over rent money may have found middle ground Thursday.

The Board of the Eastgate Mall Senior Center met with city officials Thursday to hammer out plans. That's when it was revealed the mall had proposed to let the group stay in their current area of the mall rent-free for another 12 months. But the city has to continue to pay utility fees and build a brand new sound-proof buffer wall to keep noise away from other parts of the mall.

The city has always paid the roughly $4,000 in utilities. But Eastgate recently asked for several thousand dollars in monthly rent payments, too, saying it was frequent noise complaints on the center. The city said it wasn't willing to pay that much money for rent.

"We will be able to utilize these facilities for one more year without any cost to the city," said Ernest Duke of the new developments. "And they will put in a sound-proof buffer to drown out the noise which has been a concern of some of the schools in and around the area."

The mall must now make a written proposal to city officials that details the new agreement to let the seniors stay for another 12 months rent-free with the addition of a buffer wall.

City COO Brent Goldberg said in Thursday's meeting the buffer wall might fall within an affordable price range.

"Our goal is to provide the best services and programming possible to our community members, at the best value to tax payers. We will consider all feasible options that allow us to accomplish this goal," said city spokeswoman Lacie Stone.

In the meantime, the city continues its plans to build a new Brainerd community center that will eventually house the senior center upon construction completion. Goldberg said the city has $1.5 million set aside for the new proposed center and that the plan is for the senior center to eventually move out of Eastgate and into its own section of the new community center.

PREVIOUS STORY: These senior citizens have an un-breakable bond.

"This is my family, my loved ones. We have pot lucks together, things people do together in the work force we do together, we have each other," said Martha Foster.

Recently they were told their typical hang-out spot at the senior center in Eastgate mall was closing it's doors, unless the city wanted to pay-up.

In years past, the city only had to pay for the utilities used, now, after several noise complaints the management is demanding rent for the space, plus cost for the utilities, making the bill $15,000 a month.

That's money the city isn't willing to fork over.

"It's just like we were being led to slaughter. You get out, that's it," said Connie Griggs.

Brent Goldberg with the city says they plan to build a new community center near Eastgate mall, but it could take up to a year before plans are made.

In the meantime, the seniors will be divided up among other community centers unless a deal is made with Eastgate.

"We don't want to be in a community center; we have so many activities, with seniors that it just won't fit in someone else's program," said Griggs.

These seniors say a community center that isn't just for seniors won't work for them.

"Move us an activity here and activity there, small group here small group there. Keep us all together," said Foster.

"We just want a place to call our own," said Griggs.

"We want to stay together. We want our family to stay intact," said Foster.

The seniors told me they want a place of their own to ensure safety of those with less mobility.

The city said they plan to meet with all groups involved to see if there is a deal that can be made.
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