Marquette tries millage for senior funding, by Pam Christensen

Marquette tries millage for senior funding
One of the Marquette area’s best-kept secrets is the Marquette Senior Center, located at 300 West Spring Street, below the Baraga Gym. The center serves residents older than sixty, and that may be one of the reasons it is such a well kept secret—people younger than sixty haven’t heard about the wonderful things the center offers.
The senior center has twelve staff members who offer a myriad of services that address health, education, nutrition, fitness, recreation and quality-of-life issues for senior residents of the City of Marquette, Chocolay, Marquette and Powell townships.
Most services are offered at no charge, while others carry a small fee. The center budget of $355,825 is supported by grants, the City of Marquette’s general operating budget and Area Agency on Aging funds collected by Marquette County.
One of the Marquette Senior Center’s most important roles is to assure that older adults can live in an environment of their choosing with dignity and independence. The center also tries to keep these persons involved in the community, so they are not isolated.
To support this role, the center has three full-time licensed social workers on staff. The social workers connect seniors with services they need in order to remain independent and maintain a standard quality of life. Social workers provide referral, counseling, outreach, tax credit assistance, educational programs and help navigate regulations to obtain services for which seniors qualify.
The center has five part-time homemaker aides who visit homebound seniors for cleaning, meal preparation, laundry and errands. For Norbert, an eighty-two-year-old resident, these services were critical.
“I have a heart condition, breathing problems and severe arthritis in the hips,” he said. “Negotiating the twenty-five stairs to the laundry room, with my laundry basket in hand, has been a real problem for me. Thanks to the services of the Marquette Senior Center, the problem is solved.”
Homemakers do Norbert’s laundry, protecting him from a dangerous fall.
Each semester, the NMU nursing program works with the social workers to identify seniors who need weekly visits for health monitoring. This semester, the nursing program has eighteen students paired with eighteen seniors.
The nursing students visit each senior once a week to monitor health and wellness. The seniors look forward to each visit and the nursing students receive hands-on experience.
The center also offers a variety of health-related programs with assistance from various local businesses and agencies. Blood pressure screenings, foot care clinics, exercise programs and flu shots are just a few of the services offered at the center, which has a monthly newsletter, The Horizon, that details upcoming events and services.
This newsletter also is available by mail or in electronic format from
Free blood pressure screenings will be offered on October 7 and 21. Nurses from U.P. Home Nursing visit the center and do blood pressure checks, blood glucose monitoring, and, for a fee, cholesterol testing.
Arcadia Health Care schedules a foot care clinic at the Senior Center once a month. Appointments are necessary for this clinic and there is a $20 fee.
Exercise is important for people of all ages and the center offers senior fitness classes on Monday, Wednesday and Friday at 10:30 a.m. This class offers low-impact exercise at a pace easily met by all participants. Senior fitness helps seniors maintain flexibility and keeps muscles toned.
Walking in Baraga Gym is open for people of all ages from 7:00 to 11:30 a.m., Monday through Friday. A one-mile walk is only thirteen times around the gym, and there is no rain, sleet or snow to contend with.
Seniors love the 10:30 a.m. Friday morning line dancing held at the Baraga Gym. This is a great way to keep in shape, enjoy music and get to know other people. The center also cosponsors a dance with Peter White Public Library once a year.
A flu shot clinic provided by the Marquette County Health Department will be held from 11:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. on October 29 in the Baraga Gym. Additional information is available from the senior center.
On Tuesday and Thursday mornings, seniors can participate in Tai Chi. The goal of this class is to rejuvenate the body and improve one’s health and sense of well being. Tai Chi classes are led by NMU instructor Maria Formolo.
Socialization and friendships are important for people of all ages, and there is no better way to meet people than to share a meal. AMCAB senior meals are served at the Marquette center, Monday through Friday. A menu for the meals is available on the center Web site and is posted at the center.
Seniors can stay after lunch and play cards or visit. The center hosts pinochle players on Mondays at 1:30 p.m. There is no need for a partner and novices or players with rusty pinochle skills are welcome. Refreshments are served and there is a fifty-cent fee to play
For cribbage players, the center is home to the cribbage league. This group plays at 1:00 p.m. on Thursdays, beginning in September and ending in May. Substitute players are always needed and more info on the league is available from the center.
Gail, a seventy-year-old client, said she has nothing but good things to say about the Marquette Senior Center.
“They have been there for us on many situations from helping with housekeeping, snow shoveling and also with Medicare Part D,” she said. “I could go on and on as they are truly an asset to our community.”
During 2007, the Senior Center had 22,500 senior visits to the center for services and programs. This means staff provides services to more than 400 seniors per week. In addition to regular programming, the center offers special programs, bus tours and events. TV6 weatherman Bill Roth recently visited and discussed weather issues and answered questions. Local resident Don Balmer offers a senior driver’s refresher class at the center. The center also provides an annual holiday light bus tour.
Despite the valuable work of the center, funding issues have challenged the staff to maintain programs despite rising costs. The Marquette City Commission discussed future funding of the center during budget hearings this spring. The City of Marquette general operating budget subsidizes the Marquette Senior Center budget by almost $200,000 per year.
In an effort to provide stable funding to the center, commissioners approved ballot language asking City of Marquette residents to approve a .3500 of one mill ($.35 per $1,000) tax to support the center. This millage would generate $199,000 for the City’s 2009 budget.
The city commission stated that if the measure is approved, the general operating millage will be rolled back by .3500 of one mill. This means that City taxpayers will not pay additional property taxes in order to support the Marquette Senior Center.
This proposal will appear on the election ballot on November 4 in the City of Marquette.
“The City Commission presented this proposal as a way to provide senior services without using funding from the City’s general fund,” said City Commissioner John Kivela.
Kivela is one of three commissioners serving on a committee raising funds to educate the public about the ballot proposal.
“We structured this proposal so that it would be a dedicated tax, but would not cause the taxpayer’s property taxes to be raised,” Kivela said. “If passed, the .3500 of one mill will be cut from the millage the city levies to support the general fund in 2009. The same adjustment will be made for the three years of the millage (2009, 2010 and 2011).”
Commissioners Don Potvin and Johnny DePetro also are serving on the senior center millage committee.
The committee is chaired by Stan Bigham of Arcadia Health Care.
“Many local residents do not realize that the Senior Center offers a variety of services to residents who are aged sixty or over,” Bigham said. “These are not services that only educate or provide entertainment for seniors, these services protect the most vulnerable seniors and allow them to live quality lives in their homes. It is not difficult for me to identify many ways the Marquette Senior Center improves the life of local seniors on a daily basis.
“We are very fortunate that Marquette has such a wonderful Senior Center and such a dedicated staff.”
Also serving on the senior millage committee are county commissioner Harvey Wallace, Jean Priante of Snowberry Heights and Wiljo Sarkela.
The group is raising funds for an informational brochure that will be mailed to all households with registered voters in the City of Marquette.
Lottie, a ninety-four-year-old senior who uses the services of the Marquette Senior Center said calling the senior center is like dialing a friend.
“No matter what it is that we need, you make us feel that you really care,” she said. “We always get the services and answers we need. The Senior Center has been a Godsend in my life.”
Take Lottie’s advice and take advantage of the Marquette Senior Center programs. More information is available from the center staff by calling 228-0456.
—Pam Christensen


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