Council members voted unanimously Wednesday night to approve the 14-year agreement with the nonprofit and expressed excitement that the center will reopen as soon as COVID-19 precautions safely allow it. The center at 3025 Lombard Ave. closed March 6, 2020.
It was one of a number of city programs cut in response to loss of revenue, an estimated $14 million reduction in 2020, as retail sales plummeted during the pandemic.
Steve Corsi, Volunteers of America Western Washington’s president and CEO, said the city “has been an incredible partner” in negotiating the agreement, which is overseen by Everett’s Parks & Facilities department. Corsi said his agency, which operates the Sky Valley Senior and Community Center in Sultan, hopes to host a grand opening at the Carl Gipson Senior Center in early January.
Bob Leonard, Everett’s director of parks and facilities, called the management agreement “a win-win-win for seniors, the city and Volunteers of America.” The VOA, he said, is a nonprofit with 123 years experience in managing human services.
Leonard made the comments during the July 28 City Council meeting while briefing members on the deal. He said it would save the city nearly $5 million over 14 years.
It’s similar to an agreement the city has with the Village Theatre for the Everett Performing Arts Center, he said.
Under the agreement, the city will pay VOA no more than $1,815,004 over seven years, beginning Sept. 1, for management of the center. No payments are to come from the city during the following seven years.
The VOA will submit a senior center service plan to the city parks director annually, Leonard said. Major maintenance on the building will be covered by the city, but VOA will pay program costs and retain all revenue.
“The payment structure is designed to set the VOA up for success, giving them more financial support in the early years and less financial support as they increase fundraising, grants, and membership numbers over time,” said a city summary of the contract presented to the council.
The summary lists annual payments: $115,000 in 2021, for mostly virtual services; $450,000 in 2022, $350,000 in 2023, $300,000 in 2024, $250,000 in 2025, $200,000 in 2026, and $150,000 in 2027. The contract, which extends through 2035, includes no payments after 2027.
At the July 28 council meeting, Councilman Scott Murphy asked Leonard “what’s to stop the VOA from ending it” after the city’s financial support stops? Either side can end the agreement after six months, said Leonard, adding that no single year of the arrangement “exceeds what the city would have paid anyway.”
A year ago, the city released and publicized a request for proposals regarding possible public-private partnerships. Volunteers of America Western Washington submitted the only proposal to partner with the city to provide senior center management and programming at Carl Gipson Senior Center.
Theresa Bauccio-Teschlog, the city’s procurement manager, said Everett already has contracts in place for T&L Nursery’s use of greenhouses at Legion Memorial Park; for YMCA of Snohomish County to operate its Silver Lake Outdoor Day Camp at Thornton A. Sullivan Park; for the USSSA (United States Specialty Sports Association) to manage softball teams; and for paddle board rentals.
“This is an exciting partnership. It was VOA’s idea,” Bauccio-Teschlog said.
“We are excited to partner with the City of Everett to reopen the Carl Gipson Senior Center,” said Brian Smith, the VOA’s chief operating officer, in a statement released Thursday.
That statement included comments from Carlton Gipson, son of the late Carl Gipson for whom the center is named. “I want to thank the city for recognizing that with the current budget shortfall and without a private-public partnership the center would likely be closed for an indefinite period of time,” Gipson said. “And to the VOA for your willingness to step up to the plate and answer the call for help to save a program so desperately needed by our seniors.”
Corsi said Carlton Gipson let the agency know about the opportunity.
“We are a ministry of service. We help people,” Corsi said. “If not us, who?”
With expanding services in Everett, the VOA’s work includes food banks, preschool programs and community navigators. Corsi said the agency has distributed 7.9 million pounds of food over the past year.
When the city closed the senior center, four full-time workers lost jobs. Three were laid off, and one remains in another city position, City Council members learned in the briefing.
Corsi said the VOA will fill positions for its senior center team “just like we do any other job,” by selecting the best candidates. In the short term, he expects Homage to provide meals at the center, but plans call for hiring a full-time cook.
He has hopes to increase memberships and, possibly, services. “We have a lot of major gift donors,” Corsi said.
As of last year, he said, there were approximately 1,100 dues-paying members at the center, with some memberships supported by scholarships. With far more than 10 times that number of people over age 65 in Everett, Corsi expects memberships could at least double.
City Councilmember Liz Vogeli raised the idea Wednesday of bringing young people into the center. Corsi said that may happen, with possible mentoring, academic help or teen drop-in times, but senior-only hours will be maintained.
Once reopened, the agreement calls for the center to operate 8:30 a.m.-5:30 p.m. Monday through Friday, and 8:30 a.m.-4 p.m. Saturday. The facility will be available for other uses evenings and Sundays.
Everett’s George Beykovsky, who’ll turn 90 this month, can’t wait. In a letter to the editor, published July 18 in The Daily Herald, he urged city leaders “to act now” and reopen the center.
“I had lunch there probably three times a week. I played bridge there. I used the treadmill, and talked to a visiting nurse there,” Beykovsky said Thursday. He’s pleased with the city’s solution. “I know VOA is a very efficient organization,” he said.
Julie Muhlstein: firstname.lastname@example.org