The Burlington Senior Center began operating the former Knights of Columbus building at 587 E. State St., in February. The City Council voted on Tuesday reversed an earlier decision to allow the group to use the building rent-free for the rest of 2018.  (File photo)

Aldermen will now allow rent-free operation for 2018

By Jason Arndt

Staff Writer

A City of Burlington Common Council decision to reject a lease agreement with the Burlington Senior Center two weeks ago left some stunned and others disappointed, but during Tuesday’s closed session, the council changed its stance.

At the May 1 Common Council meeting, where the lease was rejected on a 4-2 vote, the point of contention among some aldermen was the stipulation allowing the Senior Center to not pay rent for the rest of 2018.

By Tuesday, however, the same agreement drafted on April 10 won approval, with 7-1 vote in support of the lease. Alderman Jon Schultz was the lone no vote.

“The approval comes with the understanding that the seniors will be paying some sort of rent that will be applied for future capital improvements,” City Administrator Carina Walters said on Tuesday.

Walters said the city drafted the rent-free lease, at least initially, to allow the seniors time to assess its revenue streams and expenditures in their new building – the former Knights of Columbus Hall on State Street.

The seniors are expected to present a proposed budget in the coming months and the city will reconsider the issue in the fall with an eye toward setting a rent for 2019, Walters said.

As far as the rent goes, Walters said, “A number hasn’t been identified yet.”


Backlash, disappointment

Before the Common Council changed direction Tuesday, during public comments of the Committee of the Whole meeting, former alderman Tom Vos strongly urged the council to reconsider.

“All of our seniors played a part in the community and they paid their fair share in taxes,” Vos said. “I am absolutely astonished that you could not help them become successful.”

Vos, who played witness to the Senior Center’s creation as an alderman, did not believe some council members thoroughly reviewed all the circumstances surrounding the lease.

“I think you guys need to change your mind,” he said. “You need to rethink this and give the senior citizens an opportunity.”

Senior Center, Administrator Gail Boydstun said the May 1 rejection caused distress among patrons.

Additionally, the initial decision left her patrons with the belief the city showed apathy towards them.

“The seniors were so upset,” she said. “There were seniors crying in this building.”

To read the full story pick up a copy of the May 17 edition of the Burlington Standard Press.