Sue Hoehler, not a household name, but to the hundreds of seniors that I have become friends with, advocated for, fixed lunch and breakfast for, eaten with and played games with know me well and miss me as much as I miss them. In May I was suspended from my job. I was working into my 22nd year.
The executive director position came open at the Council on Aging in 1989, The Board of 15 members hired me on Feb. 9, 1989.
The Senior Center and Senior Transportation (not public transportation) were ready to close their doors. They had no money, were housed in a little red church owned by the city at 356 W. Broadway, and were deeply in debt. There was no sign of money coming in to pay the staff or bills. We turned that around, wrote a lot of grant applications and were on our way to bigger and better things for the senior community in Cass County.
In 1993, Area Five built their new offices on Smith Street. We were asked to occupy a suite in the building. There was a garage built that could house our vehicles, which now numbered 10. We were thrilled to be included in the new space and began many new senior programs, but after 10 years in the Smith Street location, we were bursting at the seams and no longer had use of the garage space.
Forrest Spencer, a board member at the time, started looking for a bigger home for our operation. The building at 115 S. Sixth Street was being used for storage for Federal Mogul, and we leased it until we could find a way to buy it.
In 2003, I wrote a Rural and Community Affairs grant with the help of a grant-writing teem from Indianapolis.
We moved into our newly renovated building in October of 2003. It has given us the space we needed and the seniors came in throngs. The Senior Center has become a “Hot Spot.” It is a welcoming, homey, friendly haven for the over-50 adult population in Cass County.
I wrote grants in the mid-’90s for public transportation. We received a grant in 1997 for $68,000. to start transporting everyone in Cass County. The county commissioners sponsored this grant, and we were thrilled to have their support.
This year, 2010, our transportation operation grant dollars from the Indiana Department of Transportation have increased to $1.3 million, and we also have a grant contract signed and sealed by our commissioners and INDOT for $1.4 million for a new garage and renovation of our current building for transit offices.
Those figures alone represent $2.7 million in federal and state dollars that have been brought into Cass County this year.
What is the problem? The board of directors for the Council on Aging already turned away $487,000 of that grant money.
Citizens, please realize that if we do not use that money, it won’t go back into taxpayers’ pockets, it will be given to another county. Why don’t the commissioners realize the enormity of this situation and stop the demise of the senior center and public transportation in Cass County.
Although I am personally insulted, it is you, the taxpayer, who has to rise up and encourage the commissioners to do the right thing.
One option is to name Area Five as the service provider for the public transit grant. This agency has a history of doing great things for Cass County, is capable of building the new garage which is a federal building project with tons of red tape and would be an excellent choice for oversight of the project.
I have worked long, hard hours building the best rural transit in the state of Indiana and a marvelous senior center. Please rise up and look into why a board of seven people run by three individuals is allowed to destroy the wonderful programs we now have.
Please ask questions, demand action and stop the destruction.
I ask that an independent firm that would hear me and listen to the board (who is unknowing) and could determine the best action to take.
Why did they completely ban me? It is apparent to the hundreds of seniors that the senior center is sliding down a slippery slope to its death and will be gone in a short time.
I urge you to step up at this time and not let this destruction continue.
Call the county at 574-753-7700 and ask to speak to one of the commissioners. You hired them to work for you, let them know what you want from them.
• Sue Hoehler is the former executive director of Cass Transit and the Downtown Senior Center.