Houston County taking over senior center

Jail inmates are seen cleaning the Houston Co. Senior Center
Jail inmates are seen cleaning the Houston Co. Senior Center
Judge Lonnie Hunt is relieved that the center will remain open.
Judge Lonnie Hunt is relieved that the center will remain open.

HOUSTON COUNTY, TX (KTRE) - The next chapter for the Houston County Senior Center is being written with a major announcement from the county judge.

After a month of controversy and financial conflict -- including the closure of the center -- seniors, now, have something to look forward to.

Houston County senior Betty Atkinson spends lots of time volunteering at the center.

"They were so lonely. They need to be with people and eat with," said Atkinson.

That all stopped when the board of directors shut it down a month ago amid a mounting financial debacle.

"It seemed like they were trying to keep things hid from us," said Louese Hickman, a senior at the center.

The Meals on Wheels program soon re-started, but the center itself remained closed. No lunches served, no dominoes played, no social interaction.

But that's all about to change.

Late Tuesday, the county received a letter from the Service Center for Older Americans of Houston County Board terminating their agreement.

"In effect, that gives the building back to the county so that we can move forward and get the senior center program going again," said County Judge Lonnie Hunt.

Now that the building is back under the county's control, jail trustees were sent out to clean the building top to bottom to get it ready for its re-opening next week.

The program's state funding was being funneled through the center's board, but Judge Hunt believes the county can take over.

"I anticipate the county will enter into a vendor agreement with DETCOG and we'll see some funding from DETCOG to help support the center,"said Judge Hunt.

He says most of that money goes to Meals on Wheels, so they plan to rely on the continued support of the community and volunteers.

Senior Claude Watson is thrilled with the news and proud of the county for stepping up.

"One of the greatest things is bringing us together as a family," said Watson.

There's still lingering questions concerning the financial meltdown of the center, but Judge Hunt says he's just focused on getting the center back open for the county's seniors.

Judge Hunt also wants to move the county's two extension agents into the offices.

They can use the center for various programs and seminars for the public. Plus, their presence will allow the center to stay open for seniors all day.

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