County Supervisors are keeping a close watch on plans for a new Clarke County Senior Center after a recent announcement of possible financial improprieties at the Shenandoah Area Agency on Aging (SAAA). SAAA currently holds approximately $200K of Clarke County funds intended for a new Senior Center project and also holds the deed to a farmhouse included in the plan.
“The only information that I have so far is that SAAA is starting the audit process” said Supervisor John Staelin (Millwood). “We have to allow the SAAA time to create its report. Until then we have to hope that our money is still in their coffers. Right now I have nothing to make me believe that the money isn’t still there.”
According to an electronic mail message issued by John Hudson, chairman of the SAAA’s board of directors, the agency discovered a shortfall totaling several hundred thousand in its accounts sometime in August, 2011. Based on that discovery, SAAA’s board voted on September 8th to terminate SAAA’s president, development director and finance director. SAAA’s board then appointed Cindy Palmer as “Acting Director” and announced that it will conduct a more detailed financial review over the next few months.
The SAAA board also retained a Winchester-based accounting firm to review its financial records and provide a clearer picture of the agency’s financial status.
Staelin said that Clarke County administrator David Ash has been in contact with SAAA but at present Staelin said that he had no information regarding the status of Clarke County’s funds.
Staelin said that one immediate impact of SAAA’s unexpected financial predicament is how the County will handle construction bid responses for the project. SAAA and Clarke County have already issued a request for proposals on the new Senior Center based on budget approvals. Staelin said that Clarke County could decide to delay the construction contract award or perhaps re-issue the RFP based on the results of the SAAA audit.
The cost of the Senior Center is expected to total approximately $900K. Of that total, SAAA’s envisioned contribution meant that Clarke County’s share of the cost was expected to be $400K with approximately half of that amount coming from private donations.”
But according to SAAA Board President John Hudson, there shouldn’t be any delays in moving ahead with the Senior Center project.
“Although the agency is experiencing serious short term cash flow for the next several weeks, the board is taking steps to find immediate sources of funding to cover core expenses” Hudson said in Thursday afternoon. “The good news – this financial downturn has in no way affected the ability of the SAAA to meet its total obligation with Clarke County regarding the new Active Living Center addition onto the Parks and Rec building. That project is moving ahead nicely.”
SAAA’s core services for the homebound include “Meals on Wheels”, Personal Care and Homemaker Assistance, and “At Home Program”, which received the 2010 Best Practices Award by the Commonwealth Council on Aging.
“I’m a great supporter of the Senior Center and the work of the Shenandoah Area Agency on Aging” Supervisor Staelin said. “If the things that we’re hearing are true then what’s happened is really despicable. But right now it’s too early to say. We have to wait until they’ve had a chance to present the facts.”
Proposed Clarke County Senior Center Budget