2012-10-18 / Front Page

Senior Center issues arise

County to evaluate problem with center’s two boards

MANISTIQUE – Issues with the Manistique Senior Citizen’s Center were brought to light during a recent Schoolcraft County Board of Commissioners meeting. The entity is currently in the midst of examination from both the city and county.

According to Dan LaFoille, chairperson of the audit/finance committee, the county has an “ongoing issue” with the center. The issue revolves around the fact that there has been confusion over the responsibility of two boards currently overseeing the center.

During a recent Manistique City Council meeting, City Manager Sheila Aldrich said the center currently has two boards: the Senior Center Citizen’s Board and the Commission on Aging. She explained the citizen’s board was created to oversee the building proper, maintenance, and programs, while the commission oversees what the center’s millage dollars finance.

The county commission appoints members of the Commission on Aging, Aldrich noted, and citizen’s board members were initially appointed by city council, but this has not been done in years.

“When one person gets off the board, then the board will try to solicit someone to be on that,” she said. “So we’re trying to get it … so it works better, and the way that it’s supposed to.”

The city has been leasing the building to the center since the 1980s, when the Department of Natural Resources turned the structure over to the city, Aldrich added. This lease expired in September, and she requested council members review the lease and come up with one that they approve of, as well as consider the possibility of combining the two existing boards.

During Thursday’s meeting, LaFoille explained he had recently met with Aldrich, city Attorney John Filoramo, Manistique Senior Citizen Center Manager Connie Frenette, Schoolcraft County Prosecuting Attorney Tim Noble, and city Councilperson Rick Hollister, to discuss the matter.

While the county has been an active part of the Commission on Aging’s responsibilities, LaFoille explained the city had not been doing their part.

“Apparently, the city was supposed to be doing the same thing for the senior center and its board, and they have not been,” he said. “I guess it wasn’t made clear at whatever point – I guess back in 1983 or whenever – that they were the fiscally responsible entity for what goes on at the senior center.”

He noted that those in attendance at the recent meeting suggested combining the two boards into one – the Commission on Aging.

“There’s some other issues that are going to have to be cleared up, and it’s going to take a while to get this all done,” LaFoille explained. “I want to make sure that folks that are responsible for paying bills and running budgets and everything else, know what we’re getting into before we get into it.”

In addition to combining the two boards, he also explained the center’s finances were also discussed.

“Our (county) insistence on the senior center getting an audit – that was definitely heard loud and clear – and agreed with, again, by almost all parties,” LaFoille said. “There’s not been an audit performed for quite sometime on the senior center itself.”

The county’s auditors have agreed to visit the Commission on Aging this year, he explained, to make sure everything is being done correctly. LaFoille noted the center’s operations are controlled through the Commission on Aging through a millage, which revealed another “problem”.

“She (Frenette) was also requesting another person to do accounting there, and, of course, that would mean another county employee,” he said. “Come to find out that the senior center, while they were looking for money, has in CDs (Certificate of Deposit) $70,000. So, I don’t think the county needs to issue money when that entity has money in their account that, at this point in time, their board can spend.

We need to move forward very carefully and make sure we get this fixed once and for all,” he continued. “I had to remind her that it wasn’t Dan LaFoille that says she can’t have money – it’s this board.”

In other business, the board also explained the issue relating to the August resignation of the county’s emergency management coordinator, Robert Madden, is now “dead”. The board had voted unanimously to have Schoolcraft County Prosecuting Attorney Tim Noble review an invoicing issue relating to Madden in July.

According to commissioners, the issue centered on Madden’s reimbursement on mileage incurred for Emergency Management meetings. At the time, Chairperson Al Grimm had said there was some discrepancy over which vehicle – the county van or Madden’s personal vehicle – was used for each trip. He noted that the county wouldn’t reimburse for trips taken with its van.

During Thursday’s meeting, LaFoille said the money in question had been reimbursed and the matter was closed.

“The prosecutor from Luce County is the one that made the determination, and the money was repaid,” he said. “But sort of, in fact, insinuated that we did not have proper procedures in place, and we absolutely did. The letter was a little bit of a slap, because I think we were very diligent in that.”

No action was taken on the issue.

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