Senior Center raises doubts

BLUE EARTH – Blue Earth City Council has again balked at naming a director for the Senior Center.

In April, the council declined to accept the recommendation of the Senior Center Board to promote interim director Linda Jahnke, who had been running the center since Middy Thomas went on medical leave in August. The council posted the position and several applications were received.

The center board interviewed the top four candidates and recommended three to the council. The top choice was still Jahnke and board members listed numerous reasons for their decision.

“I think we should put the applications out there [again],” said Councilman Glenn Gaylord, mentioning he is not comfortable.

“With only one council member having heard the interviews, it’s tough to make the decision,” noted Councilman John Huisman.

“That leads me back to: Do we need a director?” asked Mayor Rick Scholtes,

He said many small towns have someone open up a center but that person does not spend all day there. He has questioned previously whether the library staff could open the Senior Center and be responsible for it since both are in the same building.

Councilman John Gartzke pointed out that the library staff wouldn’t open the doors until 10 a.m. while people come to the Senior Center much earlier.

City Administrator Kathy Bailey said the director would work 37.5 hours per week and coordinate many things, including volunteers, events for seniors, exercise groups and others.

“Is there any other organization that works with seniors that we could consider sharing with?” asked Huisman, mentioning Interfaith Caregivers, which is located in the Ag Center.

Gartzke asked if the meal program is even sustainable, and speculated whether the council should make plans to discontinue it.

“Before we hire anyone, we need to decide if we want to continue the meal program,” Scholtes agreed.

Discussion followed on whether Interfaith Caregivers could administrate the Senior Center, including whether the Senior Center would qualify for certain funding with Interfaith at the helm.

Scholtes asked Huisman to approach Interfaith Caregivers.

“We need to take our time and get it right,” he said. “If we’re gonna make changes, now’s the time to do it.”

In other business, the council went into three separate closed sessions:

o Session One was an attorney consultation regarding various items, according to City Attorney David Frundt. Attending were attorney Pat Beety and Police Chief Tom Fletcher.

o Session Two regarded Wes Bell, a Public Works employee. An investigation was launched in March and Frundt said Monday that Bell’s job performance at the swimming pool had been questioned. He updated the council, but no final deferment has been made.

o Session Three was Bailey’s performance review. Scholtes said Bailey was evaluated in 10 areas and scored on a 1-5 scale, getting an average score of 2.3.