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Birmingham senior services agreement approved

By Kevin Elliott


Birmingham City Commissioners on Monday, September 13, unanimously approved an interlocal agreement with Beverly Hills, Bingham Farms and Franklin Village to provide funding for senior services through Next in Birmingham.


Next is a 501(c), private non-profit organization that has provided senior service for four decades, including educational programming, art, fitness and other services. Next is funded through grants, donations, fundraising and participation of the four communities in the agreement. The facility is located at the former Midvale School, 2121 Midvale, which is still owned by the Birmingham Public Schools district.


The agreement is a formal commitment by the communities to continue a minimum of funding to the non-profit service provider. Birmingham commits about $122,944 annually to Next for senior services, or about 70 percent of the organization’s programming.


“We are putting $123,000 into the program – that’s 70 percent of the budget,” commissioner Mark Nickita said, pointing out the city’s commitment to senior services “We have been doing that for quite a few years.”


Despite the city’s funding commitment, concerns about the future of Next have been raised, as the non-profit is currently housed in the former Midvale School. Some commissioners have speculated that the school may be sold in the future, leaving the future of the non-profit in question. Birmingham’s former ad hoc joint senior services committee had attempted to broker an agreement to potentially provide services through the communities directly, but failed to garner public support for such a project.


The agreement approved on September 13 can be built upon in the future, but essentially maintains the current levels of funding. However, the agreement permits any of the communities to withdraw from the agreement or change funding amounts, said Birmingham City Attorney Mary Kucharek.


Commissioners unanimously approved the agreement.


Additionally, city commissioners at the meeting decided not to reform the city’s ad hoc joint senior services committee, which had been disbanded. However, the commission agreed that it would revisit the issue in the future.


Committee member Gordon Rinschler said it would be best to form the committee after the other communities have approved the agreement. When reformed, he said the committee should focus on realistic plans to assist Next.


“We probably are not going to come back to that committee until you have other communities approve the agreement and you have consensus on what the next steps might be,” Rinschler said. “There is a need to focus on the existing facility, not pie in the sky ideas.”


Mayor pro tem Therese Longe agreed.


“Now may not be the time to resurrect that committee, but I would like to comment that although the partner communities didn’t sign the interlocal agreement that they developed, I would like to commend the committee for doing the work they were charged to do, which was taking a long-term look and evaluation at the necessary funding and governance models to effectively provide adequate senior services to participating community residents,” Longe said. “The commission asked them to do that work in 2018, and they did it ably. But now is not the time for that.


“The new agreement we approved tonight is a good start to provide financial stability to Next, but as we all agree, I think we need to move forward in fulfilling the city’s interest in fulfilling the needs of our older residents,” she continued. “Next does a wonderful job in providing these services to our residents and neighboring communities, but if we are to depend on Next to meet this need for our city, we still need to address concerns about the long-term availability of Next’s space at Midvale, and their ability to make lease-hold improvements there. Next needs stable space so they can plan for growth and improve space to accommodate for growing number of users.”

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