During Tuesday's meeting, Relay for Life organizers and participants stand with Mayor Price (left) and councilmembers Henry Wade (second from left) and Nancy Smith (third from left) in recognition of cancer awareness as part of Paint the City Purple Month. Photo by Mason Callejas

A plan to relocate senior programs displaced by the impending demolition of the Copa Center was approved by the city council Tuesday.

The decision to relocate the Adult Drop-in program, though unanimous, was preceded by a hearty discussion among the council members concerning a lack of exclusivity for seniors and a last-minute, unforeseen cost.

Starting April 3, Copper Sky will become the new primary residence of the Adult Drop-in program. On Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays from 7 a.m. to 3 p.m. “Room A” will be made available to the various senior groups who gather to play cards and Bingo, or to knit and sew.

On Tuesdays and Thursdays, or in the event of a scheduling conflict  within the group, the school district will allow the program the use of two unoccupied classrooms at Santa Cruz Elementary in Tortosa.

There are, however, a few strings attached to these new locations that some councilmembers felt have been overlooked.

Councilmember Nancy Smith addressed the fact that at Copper Sky anyone 18 and up can use the Adult Drop-in space and possibly interrupt certain senior activities.

“In my mind, this should be for seniors only,” Smith said. “I don’t know where you draw the line – 50, 55 or 60 – this should be for seniors only.”

The Adult Drop-in program, according to Mayor Christian Price, has always been open to anyone 18-years-old or older. However, when located at the isolated Copa Center, senior groups that participated in the program went through a natural selection of sorts as few people under 55 went out of their way to use the facility.

In a rather unorthodox move, senior members of the audience were permitted to speak outside of the “Call to the Public” to address these and other concerns raised by the council.

To the age issue, Copa Seniors Coordinator Fran Warzeha said she sees the event of a young adult mingling with seniors as an opportunity, not a burden.

“We would like to keep it as 55 and older,” Warzeha said, “but I don’t think any of us would say ‘No, you can’t come and play cards with us,’ because we need to teach the younger kids how to play cards, how to play games and get off the electronic devices.”

The other major apprehension of the council concerned the second location – Santa Cruz.

The isolated classrooms at Santa Cruz could offer the groups their desired exclusivity. Those rooms, however, will only be available to the Adult Drop-in program once the district has completed the construction of a chain-link fence designed to separate the students from the adults. The fence is something the school district feels the city should pay for.

According to Maricopa Community Services Director Kristie Riester, the district waives most facility costs as an exchange for funds granted to the city to help supply schools with school resource officers.

“Because they are getting something from the grant that we applied for, they aren’t charging us those rental costs,” Riester said.

Concerns about student safety and insurance liability brought about construction of the fence, which wasn’t presented to her until recently, Riester said.

“This fee, it’s not like a rental fee,” Riester said. “It’s something they will actually incur that they have not budgeted for.”

After a brief discussion, council dually determined the potential cost of the modest fence to be reasonable, and the risk of younger people potentially joining the Adult Drop-in program acceptable.

While the fence is under construction, the city will accommodate the seniors Monday through Friday, 7 a.m. to 3 p.m. When the fence is complete, senior groups will have access to multiple spaces where they can gather and socialize. Though there may not be a stringent senior exclusivity clause attached to the new locations, seniors nonetheless have found their new recreational home.