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'It’s not fair': Tecumseh seniors irate with forced club relocation

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The Golden Age Club has four weeks to pack up their belongings and vacate a municipally-owned building.

“We were shocked,” club president Dara Pfiefer O’Connor told CTV News Tuesday. “We’re just getting back our members and we're finally comfortable and we're gonna lose the place. It’s not fair.”

For the last 50 years, the Golden Age Club (GAC) has offered senior citizens a place to go for everything from organized card leagues to healthy weight loss classes, even a meeting location for Alcoholics Anonymous.

“Everything we've got is in this building. We need this building. This is a members building for seniors,” said Pfiefer O’Connor.Members of the Golden Age Club pack a public meeting with Town of Tecumseh officials in Tecumseh, Ont., on Tuesday, March 28, 2023. (Michelle Maluske/CTV News Windsor)

According to town councillor Rico Tonial however, the club has been operating in the building on Lanoue Street without a contract; a concern that was raised during a Clerks’ Review last fall.

“They were using the facility as they wish which is a liability to our taxpayers, which we must fix,” said Tonial.

Simultaneously, the town was in the negotiations with the Essex County Library board, about the need for $1 million in renovations to the Tecumseh-based Cada branch.

After exploring other possible buildings - both public and private - the town decided to move the library into the GAC building, temporarily.

“We're asking the Golden Age Club people to just move to the Optimist Club (at St. Clair Beach Community Centre) for a year,” says Tonial.

During that time, Tonial says the library will reopen in the Lanoue Street building and they will work on the next chapter for the GAC.

“We'll negotiate the contract with the Golden Age club people, to fine tune what they need. No program is changing for them for the next year. Nothing is changing except where they drive to have their facilities,” said Tonial. “The dates (and) times (of services) will be the same, just the location has changed.”

Town officials won’t say where the GAC will operate after the library moves back to the Cada building, which is expected to take a year to complete.

At a public meeting Tuesday members voiced their displeasure with being forced to move on short notice, with the perceived lack of parking at the new location and the lack of consultation before the decision was made.

“In my words, I think they're using this building as a crop out,” said Pfiefer O’Connor. “I have a feeling they've got something more to it. I know they're saying no. But we have not been given a choice to come back.”

Town officials say they repeatedly promised to work with the members to figure out what services they want and how they might help to grow the club, which currently has approximately 80 members.

“We're very cognizant that you know, we're dealing with seniors, we're dealing with people that might have some anxiety of this change. It's emotional because they’ve been there, we understand that (and) we feel for that,” said Tonial. “We have a whole team ready to help them move forward. And that's our goal is just to move it forward.”

Club members at the meeting were disappointed Mayor Gary McNamara had a previous commitment and couldn’t attend the public meeting.

But he did meet with Pfiefer O’Connor and two other club members Tuesday afternoon, in a meeting organized by former National President of the Canadian Auto Workers union, Ken Lewenza.

Essex County Library CEO Adam Craig, who attended Tuesday’s public meeting, says the $1-million renovation project will make the Cada building accessible for users.

The cost is being shared between the Town of Tecumseh and the library system.

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