DEER PARK — Evelyn Schillaci says she will miss the closeness and support of thefriends she has made at the Finksburg Senior Center during the past three years.
The center has been temporarily located at Trinity Lutheran Church in Deer Park since August. But the center will close today because the church's council decided not to renew the contract, saying the rent the seniors pay is not offsetting costs associated with the activities.
"It's just really hard," said Schillaci, a 77-year-old Finksburg resident. "We are all very disappointed. We are just such a close-knit group that genuinely cares about and depends on one another."
About 30 senior citizens participated in activities at the center. Because there is no place to relocate, the seniors will share space with other seniors at the Westminster and South Carroll senior centers.
Suzanne Santalucia, site manager for the center, said she was contacted by the church on Nov. 15. The seniors group moved to Trinity Lutheran in August on a trial basis, after bacteria was found in the water at Deer Park United Methodist Church, where the center had operatedfor two years.
But Trinity Lutheran officials said they decided the arrangement was not working out.
"The council felt that it was in the best interest of the church not to renew the contract," said Keith Hardy, pastor at Trinity Lutheran. "They were concerned about the wear and tear on the facility and that the $10 a day fee was not sufficient to cover the cost of utilities."
Jan Flora, chief for thecounty's Bureau of Aging said, "This is the dilemma we are in because we did not anticipate the church's decision and we were not prepared with an alternative location."
The seniors, who have been meeting in Finksburg on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m., now will meet on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays at the othertwo centers.
"We have to change our days and that is really goingto hurt us," Santalucia said. "We used to have Fridays when we firststarted and attendance was low."
The seniors also will have to travel farther to reach either of the two centers.
"South Carroll isfarther for me to go and with my husband's health not that good, I don't know how frequently I will be able to go," Schillaci said. "I will try to go for the programs I like, such as needlework, but I know I won't go nearly as often."
It will be the fourth move in almost as many years for the Finksburg center. And, with new state budget cuts looming on the horizon, more bad news could be in store for seniors who use the county's six senior centers.
"What we are hearing now is (Gov. William Donald Schaefer) has suggested to abolish the state's Office on Aging," Flora said.
State money to the county's Bureau of Aging accounts for about 47 percent of the agency's operating budget, or about $470,000, Flora said.
Flora said that the bureau will continue to look for another location for the displaced Finksburgseniors, but added that he will proceed with caution.
"We will have to wait and see what is going to happen after the first of the year," he said of the prospect of more budget cuts.