During Monday’s Jackson County Commission meeting, Jackson County Council on Aging director Chad Coleman spoke before the Commission about a growing problem with the Bryant Senior Center. The building is owned by a private club, the Bryant Ruritan Club, because of its declining membership and private club status, the building is in desperate need of some repairs.
The Council on Aging has had a contract with the Bryant Ruritan Club since 1996. Outlined in this contract are the conditions that the council on aging, in assistance with TARCOG, to provide nutrition programs, games, entertainment, insurance and prescription information. As for the Ruritan club, they’re responsible for the maintenance of the building, telephone and utility bills as well as any renovations to keep the building within health department standards.
“The building is in desperate need of repair due to water damage. The building was built in 1949 and it’s a cinder block building. It’s estimated that the minimum price for repairs is approximately $43,000,” Coleman said.
Some of the repairs that will be needed for the building include a new roof, new wood on the outside the building, windows, the outside awnings and an active water leak. There are also foundation issues that would likely need to be fixed.
The biggest issue with repairs is the tight funds for Ruritan Club due to declining membership over the past years.
“The senior center is in jeopardy due to the fact that the utility bills may be unable to be paid and the building cannot receive the proper repairs that are needed to maintain the center,” Coleman said. “I personally reached out to TARCOG to see if funding or grants were available and unfortunately there are no funds for them. The reason being is that [the Ruritan club] is a private club and they own the building. The key is that they’re a private club and they own that building.”
Due to the nature of this agreement, Coleman reached a few options. One of the options includes the commission buying the building and council on aging working with TARCOG to obtain funding for these repairs. Another was to work with the club to help them obtain funding. A third option included talks with the USDA about obtaining funding, with Coleman meeting with them on Wednesday. However, the private club status of the Ruritan Club again makes it unlikely that this option will work in the end. The last option was to relocate to another building in Bryant, with one already being looked at by Coleman, the Jim Moore building, with other buildings being looked at as well.
“I do think it’s important that we continue to provide services to the Bryant area, I mean when you’re talking about 780 meals per month, that’s another indication that we have seen as a growing need of food service across the county,” Jackson County Commission Chairman Bill Nance, Jr. said.
The Commission weighed several of these options, including seeing if they can buy the property and trying to acquire funds to build a new building entirely. The commission will take the next couple of weeks to gather a few estimates of the various solutions discussed and bring the topic back to the table during their next meeting on Sept. 13.