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Commission on Aging facing rent hike

September 25, 2005|By TARA REILLY

tarar@herald-mail.com

The owners of the building that houses the Washington County Commission on Aging plan to double the agency's rent effective Oct. 1, making the cost unaffordable for the agency that serves about 5,500 senior citizens, Executive Director Susan MacDonald said Wednesday.

The lawyer for the Alexander House, however, said Thursday that the rent increase is fair and will help recover projected financial losses associated with the Commission on Aging's planned move from the building.

The Commission on Aging is in the Alexander House at 9 Public Square.

MacDonald said the Alexander House is increasing rent from $1,600 per month to $3,250 per month. The cost of fuel also is increasing by $2,200 per month, County Administrator Rodney M. Shoop said Thursday.

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"We are not in a position to pay the additional rent, and that's a big issue," MacDonald said.

The Commission on Aging is moving to the Aspiring to Serve building on West Franklin Street by early next year, MacDonald said.

But until the new office space is finished, the agency is planning to stay in the Alexander House.

Washington County Commissioner Doris J. Nipps said at a Tuesday commissioners' meeting that the space at the current site doesn't meet the needs of the Commission on Aging, which is why it decided to leave.

She also said the property owners want the agency out.

"The people that own the building want them gone," Nipps said.

Roger Schlossberg, lawyer for the Alexander House, said Thursday that the Alexander House would never push out the Commission on Aging.

The rent is increasing, however, because the Commission on Aging wants to remain in the Alexander House while its space at its new location is being finished. As a result, the Alexander House will miss out on revenue it could have received if a business moved into the site, he said.

Schlossberg said commercial rent downtown can range from $6 to $13 per square foot, while the Commission on Aging is paying $1.76 per square foot - the same rent it has paid since 1979. The site is about 11,000 square feet.

Even with the rent increase, the Commission on Aging still would pay less than the commercial rate, Schlossberg said. He said the Commission on Aging would pay $3.52 per square foot under the lease.

"All we're trying to do is cut down on (the loss) of it," Schlossberg said.

Shoop said he and Commission on Aging representatives plan to meet with officials from the Alexander House to discuss the rent increase.

"Hopefully, we could come to an agreement that will work for both of us," Shoop said.

Schlossberg said he hoped that was the case, too.

Shoop said the Commission on Aging decision's to move is a positive one because it will better serve the county's seniors.

The current location lacks on-site parking, and steps inside the building make it difficult for seniors who use wheelchairs or walkers, Shoop said.

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