Plans for a new Powell Senior Center suffered a blow last month, when state leaders declined to award a $4 million grant to the project. But things may be looking up: A bill introduced in the Wyoming …
Plans for a new Powell Senior Center suffered a blow last month, when state leaders declined to award a $4 million grant to the project. But things may be looking up: A bill introduced in the Wyoming Legislature’s General Session would provide more funding for senior centers and other capital projects that were passed over in December.
While there are still many hurdles to clear before the state funding would become a reality, Powell Senior Center Director Linda Dalton is hopeful.
“I’ve had nothing but support from all of our legislators. Just wonderful support,” Dalton said.
City of Powell officials and local businesses have also backed the project, she said, while the nonprofit Daniels Fund is prepared to commit $400,000.
Even as the State Loan and Investment Board (SLIB) tabled the center’s funding request last month, the board’s members voiced support, too.
“This was one of the ones that ... I really wanted to try to find the money for, but it wasn’t there,” State Treasurer Curt Meier said at the Dec. 15 meeting.
House Bill 195 would help, by earmarking another $30 million for the Health and Human Services Capital Construction Program. That additional funding could only be used on projects that have already submitted applications to the SLIB — a category that includes the Powell Senior Center project.
Beyond the limited amount of dollars, State Auditor Kristi Racines said the restrictions on the federal American Rescue Plan Act funds are relatively stringent. For instance, each project must be “a direct and proportionate response to COVID-19 or its negative economic impacts.”
Racines said trying to use the dollars on a new senior center would be “highly risky,” expressing concern that an organization could later be ordered to return the money to the federal government.
“I think when we, the board, think about need and overall benefit to the community, senior centers consistently rise to the top …,” Racines added, “and I think that it’s heartbreaking that we can’t get some of this funding …”
Gov. Mark Gordon noted that he’d asked the Legislature to provide more dollars to expand the program.
“It’s obvious there’s need,” Gordon said.
Meier predicted state lawmakers would be supportive.
“I think that you’ll have an open ear to a lot of the folks that are going to be coming down this way [to Cheyenne] and whatever I can do, I’ll be the biggest megaphone I can,” the treasurer pledged to Dalton.
In her remarks to the board, Dalton outlined the need for a new, expanded senior center in Powell and emphasized the impact of COVID-19 on seniors.
“They got sick, they got better, but the worst part for them was the social isolation,” Dalton said. “It just devastated them.”
She said the senior center helped arrange medical appointments and vaccinations amid the pandemic and serves as a valuable gathering place for older residents.
“The senior center is their family and we’re there for them,” Dalton said.
In 2018 and 2019, the center provided an average of 120 to 130 meals every day, with 60% delivered at the Powell center. That jumped to 150 to 170 meals per day in 2021 and 2022, with 34% served at the facility.
Meanwhile, the more than 60-year-old center on North Gilbert Street is “just deteriorating,” has a second floor that’s difficult for disabled residents to access and is getting crowded as the Powell area’s senior population grows, Dalton said.
“We’re not to the point yet where we’re turning people away at the door, but boy, are we getting close,” she said in a Tuesday interview.
Dalton plans to travel to the Capitol to track various issues related to senior citizens and “to try to let legislators know how important it is that we get this money” for the new Powell Senior Center and other capital projects tabled by the state board last month.