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Hart Park Senior Center looks for new operator

The Hart Park Senior Center is located inside the Muellner building, 7300 Chestnut St.

The Hart Park Senior Center is located inside the Muellner building, 7300 Chestnut St. Photo By C.T. Kruger

July 23, 2014

After the bankruptcy of the YMCA of Metropolitan Milwaukee, the Wauwatosa facility seems to have found a new owner in the YMCA of Central Waukesha County, but the Hart Park Senior Center hasn't been as lucky.

The Milwaukee YMCA plans to stop operating the center at the end of this year.

"We felt it was prudent to provide the city of Wauwatosa with as much notice as possible to secure a new long-term partner best suited to continue this important effort," Tim Kobussen, a spokesman for the Milwaukee YMCA, said in a statement. "All programming will continue per normal until a smooth transition occurs."

The city of Wauwatosa is currently looking for another organization to keep the senior center going, such as Interfaith or the school district's recreation department, according to City Administrator Jim Archambo.

Chris Becker, CEO of the Waukesha YMCA, said the organization does not want to take on the senior center because it is focusing efforts on its own county. Wauwatosa's West Suburban YMCA, which the Waukesha YMCA plans to purchase, is on the county border, at 2420 N 124th St., while Hart Park is miles into Milwaukee County.

"Our focus as a YMCA of Greater Waukesha County is going to be more western than it is eastern," Becker said. "We will not be looking at providing active programming in Wauwatosa."

Becker said he thought another provider would be able to provide a "seamless transition."

Archambo said the city will send out a request for proposals as soon as it identifies several qualified potential operators. The new provider would begin January 1.

The cost to the city likely will not change, according to Wauwatosa Finance Director John Ruggini. This year, the city contributed $85,000 to the senior center, all of which came from the federal Community Development Block Grant program.

Ruggini said the city plans to apply for that grant money again this fall, although it won't find out how much it receives until the spring. That means the city will have to make its contribution to a new provider before knowing whether the grant will repay it. Ruggini said the city will likely operate under the assumption that it will receive the same amount of funding at it did this year and agree to pitch in its own money if the grant fails to come through.

"We'd work with the provider to make adjustments, but if the city needed to step forward, we would find funds to do that," Ruggini said.

The senior center has faced declining grant dollars in the past. At one point it had received $120,000 toward its annual budget. Last year, as a result of the sequestration and reallocation of funds based on census number, Ruggini said it dropped to $85,000, and the senior center had to make major staffing cuts.

"A stable level of funding is optimistic," Ruggini said.

The senior center also brings in about $45,000 each year in program fees and memberships. Ruggini said the city will work with a new provider to maintain that revenue flow.

Mayor Kathy Ehley said the city is committed to making sure the senior center continues to operate.

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