Merriam will continue charging county to use community center for nutrition program

The original community center building dates to 1911 and was the first school in Merriam.
The Johnson County Nutrition Program uses the community center for its senior citizen meals.

Merriam will continue to charge a fee for the Johnson County Nutrition Program to use the Irene B. French Community Center for its senior citizen meals program.

The city council last week debated the request from the program to eliminate a $125 per month fee the city charges for the use of the community center for the senior citizens meal program at the center and the use of the center for Meals on Wheels.

The Park and Recreation Committee recommended continuing the fee and the council agreed. Councilor Al Frisby voted against the fee. “I don’t think it looks good if we charge,” Frisby said. “We look greedy.”

The program uses a portion of the facility five days each week, Parks and Recreation Director Anna Slocum said. The program itself is federally funded. In 2008, the nutrition site at Prairie Village was closed and in 2014 the Roeland Park center was closed and those participants were absorbed into the Merriam program, she said. The Merriam stipend was reduced from $200 per month to $125 per month in 2012. Several nutrition sites do not charge the program for facility use.

Mayor Ken Sissom said he was torn about the right thing to do, but asked Slocum what the county charges Merriam to use Turkey Creek Park for Merriam’s annual Turkey Creek Festival. Slocum said the county charges several thousand dollars and the city asks for a fee waiver each year.

Only Frisby voted against the motion to continue charging the monthly fee.