Parks and Rec employee to help oversee activities

A growing number of activities at Gunnison’s Senior Center has led advocacy group Boomers and Beyond to seek assistance from city leaders in planning and carrying out programs.

Boomers and Beyond is a local nonprofit which organizes events, outings, social gatherings and physical activities to keep seniors engaged. Boomers is based out of the city’s Senior Center wing of the Gunnison Community Center, where folks can drop in for coffee and companionship during daytime hours. Staffed by volunteers, Boomers and Beyond is now looking to add a new Senior Center coordinator position.

Boomers submitted a request through the city’s 2018 Public Safety Grant application process for $15,000 to “maintain and expand existing programs and develop new appropriate programs designed to serve Gunnison County older adults.”

City Council last Tuesday agreed to fund a staff position within the Parks and Recreation Department, but at a lower dollar amount.

According to Finance Director Ben Cowan, based on a glance at similar communities and how much those municipalities pay for such positions, only Estes Park and Fort Lupton have dedicated, full-time senior program coordinator positions.

A salary survey from 2017 provides an average of $15.43 hourly for this particular position, maxing out at $20.37. As a result, city leaders arrived at an hourly wage of $15.59 for the local position.

Council agreed to allocate 520 hours this year, or 10 hours per week, for the position while still providing a small amount of money for advertising and associated supplies — amounting to $9,700 this year. The position, however, will be funded by moving the $9,700 from the Public Service Grants line item in this year’s budget — which totals about $225,000 — to Parks and Recreation.

“Now, all that does is provide that person with 10 hours a week to help with programming, activities and different extracurriculars for area seniors,” said Cowan.

City leaders recognized challenges with the part-time position, including how to ensure long-term success in keeping the position filled.

Cowan noted that if a person hired to serve as coordinator were to work more than 30 hours weekly, it would require the city to provide health insurance — adding approximately $20,000 in annual costs.

Dan Ampietro, director of Parks and Recreation, said this position has been in the works for several years, with senior volunteers filling the gaps since Boomers and Beyond moved into Gunnison Community Center.

The space, which is shared by Boomers and Beyond and Young at Heart, hosts a variety of activities for seniors throughout the valley, making the need for a coordinator even more pressing.

“We wanted you to understand what that dollar amount buys, and so it’s getting a quarter time person, and the other key thing is that the individual would not necessarily be working for Boomers, they would be working for Parks and Rec and working for all seniors,” City Manager Russ Forrest clarified to council.

The role of coordinator will be to plan, market and execute recreation programs and activities for seniors throughout Gunnison and the surrounding area.

City Council voted 4-1 to authorize the quartertime position under Parks and Recreation. Mayor Jim Gelwicks was the lone councilor to vote against the measure.

“It’s my intention to vote ‘no’ on this, not because I’m opposed to moving money around but just more that given the initial intent of the grants that there might be a different place to transfer it to,” said Gelwicks. “Moving it to a personnel position is a substantial change in terms of the intent of the money.”

(Kate Gienapp can be reached at 970.641.1414 or kate@gunnisontimes.com)