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CARES to sell center, move into a church

Published March 13, 2007


ZEPHYRHILLS - Faced with rising costs and a growing deficit, CARES plans to move its Zephyrhills senior center into a church with a third of the space of the current center.

Port Richey-based CARES, or Community Aging and Retirement Services, has provided craft classes, dancing lessons and other activities at the Zephyrhills senior center since 1980.

It now plans to sell the 6,000-square-foot building, including the land from the city.

The City Council got involved Monday night because in 1998, the city donated the nearly 2 acres where the center's current facility is located, at 4645 Airport Road.

"This normally wouldn't be our concern but since we gave them the land we are still connected with it," said City Manager Steve Spina. He estimates the building is worth $400,000 and the land $100,000.

Under the 1998 deal, the land reverts to the city if CARES leaves. Council members decided Monday to take $100,000 from the eventual sale instead of keeping the land. If another nonprofit is interested in buying the building, however, the city could consider giving it the land.

CARES operates six senior centers throughout Pasco County, all of which are struggling to stay open.

"We've been taking measures since early last year to balance those budgets in each of those centers," said Bill Aycrigg, chief executive of CARES.

Some of the facilities are cutting programs, while others are selling off space and moving.

"There were a lot of signs that this problem existed and it was ignored for too long," said council member Celia Graham, former board member of CARES and a member of one of the churches.

The Zephyrhills facility has accumulated a $190,000 deficit since 2001, Aycrigg said, as it is difficult for those using the centers to pay for services. Wind insurance this year went from $11,000 to $53,000 for the centers.

"Senior centers across the country are more and more supported by county and city government," he said.

Aycrigg sent letters to more than 50 churches asking to use their buildings, and two came forward: Community Chapel Church of God and United Methodist Church. CARES is evaluating both.

The current facility includes a large hall, as well as classrooms and smaller programs. The new space at either church would have about 2,000 square feet. Aycrigg said they may have to drop bingo, which was in the large hall. In addition to home health care, CARES serves nearly 900 people a year at the center.

"Although no one likes to sell a building, we see this as good opportunity to work jointly with the faith community," he said. "It will allow us to continue services in the community which we might not otherwise be able to do."

[Last modified March 12, 2007, 22:34:15]

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