Council members Mat Benol, Lamont McClure and Bob Werner voted against the proposal without explanation. Some had previously worried that the move would inconvenience Easton seniors. But Debbie Mertz, Director of the Easton Area Senior Center, put those concerns to rest. She argued the move to Forks is necessary because of parking woes and high crime in Easton's downtown.
"When I first started 15 years ago, we had 90 visitors a day," she explained. "It's dropped to 8."
Mertz said that 15 years ago, the City was much more accommodating to senior concerns. There was art in the circle, flea markets, little crime and easy parking. But all that has changed. The Area Agency on Agency has repeatedly tried to get parking permits for seniors visiting the center, without success. Easton refused permission for a space in front of the center so aging seniors could be dropped off, especially in the winter. The City also refused to allow seniors to use six handicapped spots in front of the South Side center on street cleaning days.
"I can't even have a dance," lamented Mertz, noting that Easton enforces parking meters late into the evening and even on Sundays. "If they get a ticket, seniors can't afford it."
She also pointed to a recent holdup at a business just a few doors from the down center.
In contrast, there is "oodles of parking" at the Eagles building, as well as brand new bathrooms and a modern kitchen. Lafayette College has already approached Mertz about gardening plots for seniors, which are being called "Lafarms". Seniors will also be able to use a trail and even a boccie ball court.
Council member Glenn Geissinger, the only member of Council to address the lease proposal, said his concerns were allayed after speaking to the Area Agency on Aging. He added there is no truth to "rumors that we are closing senior centers."