Santa Rosa will close the Bennett Valley Senior Center by early September in what is likely to be the first of several unpopular moves to bridge a $14.2 million budget gap.
The City Council on Tuesday approved the closure, which is expected to save the city about $54,000 in annual operating costs.
It will also help the city avoid costly repairs to the Bennett Valley Road building, which was built in 1924 as a schoolhouse.
A recent analysis of city buildings recommended closing the center, citing its age and an estimated $300,000 in needed roof repairs.
City officials told the council that usage of the center had been dropping since the opening in 2012 of the Person Senior Wing of the Finley Community Center, on the opposite side of town in northwest Santa Rosa.
About 100 people still use the Bennett Valley center, many preferring it to the Finley site or the Steele Lane Community Center. The city Recreation and Parks Department has operated the Bennett Valley site since 2002.
A few seniors turned out to urge the council to reject the move.
“Don’t balance the budget on the backs of seniors!” Linda Curry told the council.
Curry said council members were getting a “snow job” from city staff. She said many seniors have difficulty walking from the parking lot to the activity room of the Person Senior Wing.
“The mahjong at Bennett Valley is different than the mahjong they play at Person,” she said.
Some City Council members have inquired whether the Bennett Valley site could be repurposed for services for the homeless, but no such plans have been approved.
The closure was approved 6-0. The city expects to transition all the programs to other locations by Sept. 4.
You can reach Staff Writer Kevin McCallum at 521-5207 or firstname.lastname@example.org. On Twitter @srcitybeat.