DUNEDIN — The city has stepped up to ward off eviction for an adult day care center that serves dozens of local seniors and their caregivers.
Since 2002, a contract with Mease Dunedin Hospital has allowed the Neighborly Care Network to operate the day care center out of a hospital-owned facility at 820 New York Ave.
In addition to providing the rent-free building, the hospital for years also covered patient lunches, furnishings, utility and tax costs, parking and liability insurance in exchange for the nonprofit's staffing the center to serve up to 25 seniors or hospital patients a day.
The city wasn't a party to that agreement but donated $15,000 worth of handicap accessibility upgrades anyway.
In September, city officials said, the hospital told Neighborly Care Network it would have to leave by Dec. 31 because the building needs major roof and gutter repairs — an expense the hospital can't afford on top of a multimillion-dollar expansion of its emergency and operating rooms and other patient services.
At the urging of City Manager Rob DiSpirito and citizen volunteers on Dunedin's social services and aging committees, the City Commission voted unanimously last week to pay for the building renovations. The $35,000 will come from Dunedin's facilities capital fund reserves.
Under the new agreement, the day care center must continue to operate for five years or reimburse the city for the cost of the roof repair.
"I'm so humbled," Neighborly Care Network president and CEO Debra Shade told commissioners. "You all stepping up to the plate without us coming to ask just shows such a true commitment that you have to your seniors."
The day care center — one of four the nonprofit runs in Pinellas County — ensures that seniors with dementia, brain injuries or physical impairments can remain home with loved ones by providing their emotionally and physically drained caregivers with respite or the means to continue to work.
About 50 seniors are currently enrolled from one to five days a week, and the need continues to grow, Shade said.
"Assisting in the upkeep and repair of this community asset would be a reasonable use of city funds, in my opinion," DiSpirito said.
Consultants estimated the roof repair cost at $27,920, but the city recommended budgeting $35,000 in case workers encounter dry rot, termite damage or unforeseen problems once the original roof is removed.
Elected leaders praised the program and the partnership, though Commissioner Julie Ward Bujalski noted that building upkeep is technically the hospital's responsibility. She asked DiSpirito to ensure that the new agreement protects the city by holding Mease Dunedin's "feet to the fire" for future repairs.
Keyonna Summers can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (727) 445-4153. To write a letter to the editor, go to tampabay.com/letters.