Kathy Paul of Lynn, a member of Mass Senior Action Council wants more programming for seniors (Jim Wilson/File Photo )

City will take over management of Lynn Senior Center

LYNN — Mayor Thomas M. McGee announced on Wednesday that the city will be taking over management of the Lynn Senior Center, which would include a move to a new facility. But some seniors are skeptical they will see much benefit from the transition. 

The city and Greater Lynn Senior Services (GLSS) have come to an agreement to move the Senior Center from the GLSS building at 8 Silsbee St. to a new, undetermined facility in June 2020.

McGee said the city will take over operation and management of the Senior Center, but continue to partner with GLSS on delivering certain services.

"GLSS has been a valuable partner for many decades during a time that Lynn was not in a position to operate its own senior center," McGee said in a statement. "We look forward to continuing to work with them during this transition and with the future delivery of nutrition, mental health and meal preparation/delivery programs at the new center. This is an exciting opportunity to expand the vital services the city can offer our senior population. 

"Given recent stabilization of the city's financial condition, along with increased state aid for senior programs, we believe the time is right for Lynn to follow the model of other municipalities in the Commonwealth and operate its own senior center," McGee said. 

The agreement comes in the wake of a series of protests from seniors associated with Massachusetts Senior Action Council. Organizers said their issue is not with the location of the Senior Center, but rather with the landlord, Paul Crowley, GLSS CEO, about the way staff and seniors are treated at the center.

Kathy Paul, president of North Shore Mass Senior Action, said what the seniors need is more programming at the center, such as what's offered in neighboring communities. Regarding the announcement about the move, she said seniors will believe it when they see it. 

"Budgets have been cut, programs have been cut and the attendance has dropped dramatically because there's nothing to do," Paul said. "(We) might as well sit at home and watch the boob tube … We need to know that respect and dignity for staff and the seniors is going to go with the new place, wherever it is, and we'd like to see some transparency on where the money goes." 

More than three dozen seniors protested on the front steps of the GLSS headquarters early last month in support of former Lynn Council on Aging director Stacey Minchello, who resigned following a complaint she filed with the Massachusetts Commission Against Discrimination alleging Crowley harassed one of the seniors. 

Seniors have continued to protest each Friday and said they plan to continue to do so each week. Pamela Edwards, director of organizing for the Massachusetts Senior Action Council, said the complaint stemmed from Crowley allegedly knocking the hat off the head of a senior four times. 

When Minchello went to Crowley to address the complaint, Edwards said he cut the Senior Center's budget by $30,000 and removed her as Council on Aging executive director. She later resigned from her post as the center's activities coordinator. 

"It wasn't so much that the location was bad," Edwards said. "It was that the landlord was not a good landlord. (Seniors are) hopeful that they'll be there every Friday at noon until they see a concrete plan that addresses the concern about dignity and respect at the senior center." 

Under GLSS' current contract with the city, Lynn allocates more than $360,000, half from the city budget, to staff the Senior Center and pay for rent.

It was unclear how that cost would change with the transfer of the Senior Center to the city. McGee declined a request for an interview and Michael Bertino, the city's chief financial officer, did not respond to a request for comment. Details of the agreement were not released beyond emailed statements from McGee and Crowley provided by the city. 

"This is an exciting opportunity for Lynn and its seniors," said Crowley, in a statement about the transition. "I have long subscribed to the adage that any society, and therefore any community, will ultimately be judged by the way in which it supports its elders. I am proud that GLSS and the city of Lynn have worked very closely together for a very long time to be sure Lynn elders receive the best supports possible. 

"That work will continue. Putting the needs of our elders first, we have jointly determined that this new direction for the Senior Center will offer the greatest benefits to more seniors throughout the city. GLSS will do whatever it can to ensure a smooth transition and will, of course, continue to deliver the vital services and resources our consumers need to promote their health and well-being," Crowley said. 

The city plans to work with the Lynn Council on Aging to help identify the qualities necessary in a newly relocated facility.

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