‘Re-envision a space and an opportunity’

Published 12:34 pm Monday, January 1, 2024

Details of a renewed proposal are discussed

A presentation and some key questions and answers preceded the Windsor Town Council’s 6-0 vote Dec. 12 to accept a proposal presented by Senior Services of Southeastern Virginia for the provision of senior programs at the Windsor Town Center.

Providing the presentation on the proposal was Charnitta Watters, the senior director of operations at Senior Services. She noted that SSSEVA is based in Norfolk but is the largest area agency on aging in Virginia, covering from Norfolk all the way out through the Western Tidewater area — “six cities and two counties and everything in between.”

She acknowledged that in 2022, the Windsor Town Council had approved a Memorandum of Understanding regarding an SSSEVA proposal, and Senior Services ultimately chose to decline the agreement.

“At the time, Senior Services made the decision to not move forward due to some challenges logistically where there were some concerns with having uninterrupted time spent with our seniors due to the planned closures of the (Windsor Town Center),” she said. 

“However, since that time, I’ve been able to work with our department director, our internal operations team and our CEO to develop an alternative plan and how we can really come to the town of Windsor (and) be able to have an alternative arrangement during the planned closures for the Town of Windsor Center in hopes to really service older adults,” she added.

She noted that after SSSEVA declined the agreement in the fall of 2022, “we had our senior programming find a temporary home in the Zuni area at a local church, and it yielded some favorable responses. There were some low participation rates in clients, however it did strengthen our relationships with the faith-based institutions, the churches.”

She said that it also offered some opportunities for broadening community awareness of all the services that SSSEVA offers.

“We also had older adult residents from the town of Windsor attend some of our sites and some of our programming there at the Zuni area,” she said. “So we were providing them transportation from Windsor to attend our senior site in the Zuni area. Recently I did check with the team there, and we have three recent Windsor older adult residents attending as to date.”

“The program is a pilot program, so we anticipate on moving forward sometime in December,” she continued. “However, with that and all that we saw with the performance progress and the interest from our older adult residents that were in Windsor, I thought it would be an ideal time to re-approach the town to see if we could reestablish a presence here at the town of Windsor. 

“There’s a clear shared interest in how we care about our older adults, and so we felt like if we’re able to re-envision a space and an opportunity here in the town of Windsor to care for the older adults, it will allow us to bring robust and increased programming activities here,” she said. “It will also offer closer access for our seniors in the Windsor area as well.”

Additionally, she noted that Senior Services will be able to roll out its Better Together Cafe, which she described as a new notion that SSSEVA is moving forward with, bringing not just programming and healthy and nutritious meals, but also more programming in health literacy classes for older adults to ensure they are healthy, active and engaged.

She highlighted the great relationship that exists between Senior Services and Isle of Wight County Parks and Recreation, noting that it has led to senior programming in other parts of the county.

“In other areas out in the Western Tidewater area, we’ve been able to be successful, and the hope is that you all will consider the opportunity — revisit the opportunity — for us to bring it right back here to Windsor,” she said in conclusion.

QUESTIONS FROM COUNCIL MEMBERS

Windsor Mayor George Stubbs noted that SSSEVA representatives met with the Windsor Town Center Advisory Board, and he asked one of the board’s members, Councilman Edward “Gibbie” Dowdy, what the feeling of the board was regarding the proposal.

Dowdy said, “We actually approve them coming back as long as we had the time set where they would be out of the building by the time the parents started coming in to pick up their children from the school.”

Georgie Tyler Middle School is adjacent to the Windsor Town Center which is what leads to traffic congestion in the area of the center when school is dismissed each day.

Windsor Town Manager William Saunders noted that the day-to-day senior program hours are shown in the MOU as 9 a.m.-1:45 p.m.

“That would normally be wrapping up at 2 (p.m.), but because of the stacking of the parents coming to the middle school to pick up their children, the stacking gets into the Windsor Town Center parking lot by about 2 o’clock,” Saunders said. “So we had already implemented that in the MOU for them to be leaving at 1:45, but the Town Center Advisory Board reiterated their desire that the seniors are off that premises by 2 o’clock so that they’re not running afoul of the increased traffic in the parking lot.”

Windsor Vice Mayor J. Randy Carr asked if the senior programs would be a daily activity.

Saunders said, “I believe they propose to start with three days a week, probably Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, which is what’s going on in Tucker Swamp now. The current MOU approves up to four days a week, Monday-Thursday, so the way the MOU’s written, they could do a fourth day on Monday if the three days was successful enough. 

“What was proposed to us at the meeting that included Ms. Watters, Parks and Rec staff and town staff was three days to start and approximately 20 to 22 seniors is what they hope to have at a typical lunch event,” Saunders added.

Carr asked for confirmation that about 20 to 22 seniors will be fed on any given day.

“Yes,” Watters said. “So that is our capacity, and we will do our best to try to meet that capacity, and we are planning on staffing it as well.”

“That’s pretty neat,” Carr said. “I didn’t realize that head count was that high. That’s awesome.”

Watters also alluded to a home-delivery option for the meals when the Town Center is not available.

Stubbs asked Watters how many seniors were attending at Tucker Swamp, which is the aforementioned church utilized by SSSEVA in the Zuni area.

“At Tucker Swamp, when I checked the roster, the recent roster showed about eight older adults,” she said. “There were times it was two to three.”

Stubbs focused on the proposed start and end points of 9 a.m. and 1:45 p.m. at the Windsor Town Center, and he asked if Senior Services was going to require more time on either side of those points for setup and cleanup.

Saunders later said, “I think the 9 to 1:45 is more the program hours, not to say that staff wouldn’t be there a little earlier or leave a little later. But the advisory board is just clear about having the seniors out of there by 2 o’clock, not to say that staff couldn’t be there cleaning up and putting away after.”

Councilman Walter Bernacki opened his comments on the Senior Services proposal by noting, “I just want to say that I think it’s cool that you’re back.”

He described the declined agreement in 2022 as “disheartening.”

“I know part of that was a decision on other personnel from your organization prior,” he said to Watters. “The biggest concern that they had is they didn’t want to be the secondary to the summer camp and stuff. I’m glad that your new team has initiated and been able to reach out and make those communications and connections happen to provide these programs. I think it’s good.”

He then asked Windsor Town Attorney Fred Taylor if he had looked over the proposed MOU and if he was comfortable with it.

Saunders noted that the agreement in the council’s meeting packet was the exact one that was approved by the Town Council in 2022.

“In overall substance, this had my blessing last year,” Taylor said. “I don’t know if there’s going to be any details modified based on the new approach.”

Saunders indicated that the advisory board was not calling for changes to the agreement but simply reiterated its desire about the seniors’ time of departure.

“The Town Center Advisory Board also discussed some concerns about additional supply costs, utility costs, wear and tear on the facility, but nothing to the level of changing anything in the agreement,” Saunders said.

He also reminded council members that there would be an opportunity to review and revise the agreement a year or so into the arrangement.

“You may recall there is an element in this agreement whereby it’s revisited after one year to look at the cost, look at the actions and the interactions of the program,” he said. “It requires us to sit down to the table between 12 months and (an) 18-month time period to review and debrief on the first year to see if there are any changes that council may recommend or that Senior Services may recommend.”

Stubbs prompted a reply about building access when he asked, “What would we do about the staffing situation if (Senior Services needs) to be in there at 8 to 8:30 in the morning? How are we going to work that?”

Saunders said, “This is an agreement very similar to the agreement that we have with Isle of Wight County whereby Parks and Rec is an authorized user, we’ll say, of the facility. They have their own passcode to security, they have their own keys, they facilitate programs in there during certain hours.”

He noted that the proposed agreement “would allow Senior Services to also be an authorized user of the facility for this program. They would necessarily have their own keys, have their own codes to the security system.

“However, the main difference in the two agreements is that many Parks and Rec activities and town activities would have seniority over the Senior Services activities,” Saunders added. “So if there were a conflict, the Senior Services use would be on the lower threshold than others.”

He then cited a segment of the agreement directly, which reads as follows:

“Senior Services’ use of the facility shall be secondary to rentals by the town and/or planned programs sponsored by the Isle of Wight County Parks and Recreation. This shall include, but not be limited to, the Summer Camp (typically eight weeks running mid-late June through mid-late August) and Spring Camp (typically one week in March or April during the Isle of Wight County Schools spring break), as well as general and primary elections. 

“Senior Services’ programs will primarily take place in the Arrowhead Meeting Room and kitchen and can take place in the gym, art room or lounge as secondary options when conflicts arise. Town agrees to be flexible and accommodating to the degree possible with rentals during Senior Services’ programs.”

Summarizing, Saunders said, “So basically we’re saying we can bump them if we need to, but we’re going to do everything we can to relocate them in the facility first or give them as much notice as we can if we have to bump them for a big rental or a big event or something.

“But the way it’s currently staffed, with Parks and Rec staffing it from noon to 8 p.m. on weekdays and part-time town staff staffing only for town events that we have, paying events, with that current paradigm, (Senior Services) would need to be users that have their own access to the building.”

Stubbs briefly highlighted the part of the MOU dealing with insurance, which reads as follows: “The town shall add Senior Services as an additionally insured party on their insurance policy, and Senior Services shall add the town as an additionally insured party, with a minimum of $1 million coverage per event and $3 million total coverage.”

Councilman David Adams also had a couple questions, all in connection with Isle of Wight County Parks and Recreation’s status as a tenant of the Town Center, a status that Senior Services would also achieve with the proposed agreement. His last questions addressed the impact that the agreement would have on town staff.

“On the days when Seniors Service of Southeastern Virginia is going to be operating, which is potentially four days a week, we’re going to have an overlap from noon to 2 where both the tenants are going to be in there at the same time,” he said to Saunders. “Is that going to put any additional strain on the town staff? If there was a conflict or something like that, is that going to pull you or someone else away to go deal with that?”

Saunders said, “I would say no more than additional use would otherwise. The more it’s used, the more likely there is something that’s going to require town staff’s attention, but just the fact that those two are together at the same time, I wouldn’t say so.”

Dowdy made the motion to accept the SSSEVA’s proposal, Bernacki seconded it, and the unanimous vote followed.