The Pasco School District has been talking about buying or leasing the Pasco Senior Center from the city.
Details are vague, but discussions on a possible transfer started just days after the Pasco City Council made replacing the senior center on North Seventh Avenue with a smaller facility one of its goals at its two-year planning retreat on April 18-19.
Talks continued as recently as last week.
While Pasco’s population is growing, senior center use is declining, possibly because older residents are becoming more active and less interested in traditional senior programs, according to city documents.
The facility’s large size has become a drain on city resources, and the city wants a more “appropriately sized and located” senior center.
John Morgan, the school district’s assistant superintendent of operations at the time, asked Rick Terway, Pasco administrative and community services director, about setting up a walkthrough of the senior center for eight to 10 people, in an April 22 email obtained by the Herald in a public records request.
“We are looking for any additional space that might be available,” Morgan wrote.
Morgan asked to see floor plans for the building after visiting on May 1.
Terway sent Morgan a layout map of the 22,000-square-foot building. It shows a large multipurpose room that can be divided into three smaller rooms. There are also craft, television, billiard and foot care rooms, along with a library, kitchen and computer lab.
The school district planned an appraisal on the building, Kirt Shaffer, managing broker with the Tippett Company, told Terway on July 24.
“We will get back to you regarding the school district’s interest and a potential letter of intent to purchase after the review has been completed,” Shaffer wrote.
Interest continued through the summer. Pasco Deputy City Manager Stan Strebel told school Superintendent Saundra Hill he wanted a follow-up discussion on a question she asked about a possible lease at the senior center in an Aug. 26 email.
A letter from Shaffer to Pasco City Manager Dave Zabell and two more documents dealing with the appraisal of the building were withheld from the Herald by the city. State law allows cities to exempt appraisal documents from public records requests until a property is sold or the prospective sale is abandoned.
Discussions between the city and school district are ongoing, Zabell told the Herald recently.
“We’ve had discussions, but no conclusion,” he said.
Zabell declined to say whether the entities are discussing a lease or sale of the senior center.
The school district will have to do a feasibility study before it determines whether to take over the senior center, spokeswoman Leslee Caul said.
“We are looking at different properties in central Pasco because we need more room for students,” she said.
The district had reviewed another property in the area, but found it would take too much work to make it a school, she said.
The district hasn’t determined whether it would like to buy or lease the building, Caul said.
“That would probably be something (school officials) would determine based on what we would use it for,” she said.
As for a smaller replacement facility for the senior center, Zabell said the city is still “looking for opportunities.”
Pasco formerly had a senior services advisory committee to allow users to provide feedback on issues with the senior center, but merged it with the parks and recreation advisory board in 2012 after only two of its five positions could be filled.
Meals on Wheels has used the kitchen at the senior center, but is looking for a location with more modern equipment, said Robert Brandt, a former Meals on Wheels volunteer and member of the senior board. Some of the center’s other programs might also be losing popularity.
“They used to be well-known for dancing classes,” Brandt said. “I think that has diminished quite a bit.”