Eastgate Senior Center is staying for now

Eastgate Senior Center is staying for now

July 19th, 2014 by Joy Lukachick Smith in Local Regional News

Audrey Mathes line dances on Thursday while at the Eastgate Senior Center in Eastgate Town Center, which she has been using for two years.

Photo by Shawn Paik /Times Free Press.

The Eastgate Senior Center is likely safe for now. Though without much help from Chattanooga officials, seniors say.

The center's advisory board negotiated directly with Eastgate Town Center managers, who have agreed to allow the seniors to stay at their own center rent-free -- as they have for the last 18 years -- if Mayor Andy Berke's office signs off on the agreement next week.

After seniors found out they would be evicted by July 31 from their current location, more than 50 seniors rallied at the City Council meeting Tuesday night to complain that they had been abandoned.

Berke's staff said they had decided to temporarily house the large group of seniors that visit the center daily at the city's Brainerd Youth and Family Development Center after new Eastgate management announced the center would be charged anual rent of $11,000 plus utilities.

But Eastgate Town Center acting manager David Goddard said city officials never asked to negotiate for the same space but asked for a larger location in the mall.

"It wasn't the management at fault but the city for not doing anything," said Connie Griggs, an active senior, who spoke on behalf of the group Tuesday night.

Seniors don't want to be pushed into a center that is already too small, used for children and is one of the city's voting sites, she said.

Berke spokeswoman Lacie Stone said that, coupled with noise complaints, the fact that the group had outgrown its current location and that the management wanted to charge rent, led city officials to decide to move the seniors. But if the management is willing to work with the city, officials will review their written proposal and make a decision, she said.

The mayor's office set aside $1 million in this year's fiscal budget to build a new Brainerd multipurpose community center near Eastgate that officials say will have room for senior activities, but there is no timeline on when that will be complete.

Contact staff writer Joy Lukachick at jlukachick@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6659.