After months of drawn-out discussion — more the result of technicalities than hostility — Lewis County and the Toledo Senior Center have finally agreed to a settlement on the seniors’ $19,000 overpayment to the county.
“I want to thank all of you for listening to us,” said Mona Rae Fish, secretary of the Toledo Mighty Fine Seniors, after signing the agreement. “I realize that it’s a difficult thing, but it’s our money. We worked hard for it.”
The issue stemmed from the Toledo center’s series of accidental overpayments in 2016, when Lewis County ran operations of the senior centers, and each individual center was expected to help reimburse the county with fundraising dollars. When the county turned the centers over to the Lewis County Seniors nonprofit last year, $19,000 of Toledo’s money still remained in the county coffers.
Though both parties acknowledged the money should be returned to Toledo, without a written agreement there was no clear mechanism to turn over the funds — leading to the long-running discussion. Ultimately, both sides agreed that the county would meet its obligations by paying for $19,000 worth of upgrades to the Toledo Senior Center, a building owned by the county.
“I’m only 88, and I got to see it settled,” said Fish, who spearheaded Toledo’s efforts to regain their money. “I made it and that was my goal. … At my age, I still feel that I have a value in life if I can accomplish this.”
Fred Wilson, the Toledo senior group’s president, said he would have preferred to see a simple transfer of the funds, and that he was signing the agreement “under protest.”
At Toledo’s request, Lewis County added language to the settlement agreement stipulating that the upgrades will be conducted within 9 months, and the enhancements will be above and beyond regular maintenance.
“What Toledo had requested was to look at the cost to redo the flooring and refurbish the kitchen cabinets,” said county budget manager Becky Butler.
Facilities manager Doug Carey presented attendees with a quote the county had procured from a local flooring company, showing that a complete flooring job at the senior center would be about $25,000. By doing more selective work and possibly using different materials, the county believes the job can be completed closer to the $19,000 threshold.
“We can work with the bidder and get it to be at about that range,” Butler said.
Fish joked that the seniors’ main focus is replacing the flooring “where the duct tape is.” The cabinets, she added, are dark and drab, but the Toledo group may be able to handle fixing them up on a volunteer basis.
The settlement agreement was struck in principle last month, but county officials hesitated at the last minute, waiting for the sign-off of the Lewis County Seniors board of which Toledo is now a part. Commissioner Bobby Jackson said he did not want to create a precedent where individual senior centers took disputes to the county, rather than first approaching their board.
However, Toledo maintained that the nonprofit was not a party to the agreement, since the Toledo center was not under its governance when the overpayments were made to the county. Ultimately, the county conceded, calling the issue an “anomaly” and insisting that future senior center issues be directed through the board.
“Because this was an unusual situation, we felt like we’d just move forward with this,” Jackson said. “We want (the nonprofit) involved with any other future discussions we have with senior centers.”