The Switzerland County Commissioners have reached a decision on the future of the Jack Sullivan Senior Citizens Center — it will be the new home of Vevay Town Hall.
At a meeting on Monday night, the commissioners voted by a 2-1 margin to give the senior center building to the Town of Vevay. Commissioners Josh South and Jamie Peters voted for the proposal, while commissioner Jerry Monjar voted against it.
The commissioners had five proposals from entities wanting to take the building: the Town of Vevay, Switzerland County Tourism, Lattice Biologics, the Vevay VFW Post, and the Jefferson-Craig Volunteer Fire Department. After consideration, the commissioners then narrowed the field to three proposals — eliminating the VFW and Jeff-Craig — and held more extensive interviews with the three finalists.
“We had an administrative meeting last Friday, where we interviewed all three,” South said.
The agreement to award the building to the town comes with some stipulations.
“First of all, the town of Vevay hasn’t voted on anything yet,” Commissioner South said. “We’re putting the final proposal together now for them. They agreed by consensus to put a proposal out there to us. We’re going to put everything in writing and get it to them so they can take a vote on it — they could still say no. All of that final legalese is being put together right now. Wil’s (county attorney Wil Goering) is working up the documents and sending it over to them.”
As for the covenants that will be a part of the agreement, the timeline for the move will be sped up; and proceeds from the sale of the current town hall — the old Carnegie Library building on Ferry Street — will have some ties.
“There’s a couple of different stipulations on it,” South said. “One, 25-percent of the proceeds of the sale of the Carnegie Library building would go into a new endowment fund for senior programming in the county. It will be used specifically for the purposes of senior programming, and that could be anything from supplies to events or trips, or memberships. Basically it will provide additional opportunities for senior citizens here in the county.”
South said that along with those sale proceeds, the county is going to contribute one year of the senior center’s prior operating expense — about $50,000 — into that endowment to help build the fund up initially.
South also said that if the town sells the building within 10 years, contractually all of the proceeds of that sale would go directly back to the county. “That would go into that endowment fund, as well,” South said.
The other element of the agreement is the proposed timeline. When the town originally proposed taking over the building, Town Council President Keith Smith proposed a timeline of approximately three to five years for the move to be complete, because of the modifications that will need to be done to one area of the building where the Vevay Police Department will be housed and other specific modifications and upgrades that will need to be done in order to serve the residents of the community.
“Under our agreement, they have to take occupancy within six months,” South said. “The five year timeline, the way Keith explained that to us was that five years was more of padding for us, that way we didn’t have to rush through a decision; but we talked with them in detail and said, ‘listen, we don’t want this thing to drag on forever, so we suggested six months, and he said he was comfortable with that.”
As this process has moved forward, there have been members of the community who wonder how the county can give away a piece of property and a building. State guidelines specifically address how a governmental entity has to go about divesting itself of things that it owns and how a price is determined.
South said because of who the property is going to, those things aren’t in play.
“If it’s to a not-for-profit, we do not have to sell the building,” he said. “I think it even becomes a little easier since it’s a government entity to a government entity in this case. Wil’s got the details, but he stated that there are no issues.”
And the future of the senior mealsite and those who attend its programming?
As for the future home of the Senior Mealsite program, South said that the county is committed to finding a suitable home for the seniors, and will continue to work towards that end.
“We’ve had offers from the YMCA to take over hosting that. We also have the TEC Center; and then Debbie Allen was at our meeting and indicated that there might be another organization that would have an interest in hosting the senior programming,” South said.
“We will make sure that there is a location for that programming,” he continued. “Now if another entity comes in and wants to oversee the program, then we will take that into consideration, but we are committed to making sure that the seniors are taken care of.”
But it was also a tough decision.
“Ultimately we just felt that the town of Vevay had the best proposal for the continual use within the community, based on the proposals that we received,” South said.