Baileyton seniors grapple with loss of center

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Notice provided to James Fisher (Baileyton Senior Center/Facebook)

BAILEYTON, Ala. – Senior citizens in Baileyton who meet weekly at the Baileyton Senior Center say the future of the center is in jeopardy after they received a notice last Thursday to vacate the premises within 10 days. The notice, picked up by James Fisher, president of the center, on March 16, was dated March 8 and signed March 13 by Baileyton Mayor Windell Calloway.

“I picked this (notice) up, and we got here Thursday and the doors were locked. We’re only here five hours a week,” Fisher said, expressing frustration with the situation.

Fisher claims senior center members have faced a series of challenges in their dealings with the town’s administration, including, he said, losing access to the facility and transportation services. He said the center used to receive $2,500 a year from the Town of Baileyton when Johnny Dyar was mayor. However, he said, in the past couple of years, they have had to rely on fundraisers, soup and sandwich sales and bake sales to cover the cost of feeding the seniors. (Calloway defeated Dyar in the 2020 municipal election, which also saw one incumbent council member defeated. In 2021, former Town Clerk Pat Gilbert was replaced.)

“We’ve had a few problems out of them for the last year or so,” Fisher said.

Fisher claims town administration also revoked the seniors’ access to a bus paid for, he said, by a grant, intended for their use. Fisher described the ordeal: “They first said there wasn’t a key, so we asked them to get one made. Then they said it wouldn’t run. Then they said the liability (insurance) would be too much so they weren’t going to fool with it.”

Additionally, said Fisher, the administration rebranded the Baileyton Senior Center as a community center and changed the locks, denying him a key.

Fisher said, “A president ought to have a key if he’s over the center. Not only did he take the key, but I can’t even check a key out. I have to call the mayor every time to unlock the facility.”

The seniors were also told to vacate the storage shed near the center, which Fisher said housed medical equipment like hospital beds, wheelchairs and walking canes, to make room to store items for Baileyton Bargain Days. “We asked, ‘Well what do we do with all this equipment in here?’ and Calloway said, ‘Well that’s not my problem.’ He’ll probably deny that, but that’s what he said,” Fisher remarked.

Fisher said Councilman and Mayor Pro Tem Roy Shedd informed him the seniors would have to rent the community center every Thursday if they want to continue to meet there.

“The justice for this situation would be to have him (Calloway) and the pro tem removed,” said Fisher.

WAFF 48 reported:

When asked about this decision, Mayor Windell Calloway’s answer was ‘it’s the law.’ He said the private entities are not allowed to use buildings owned and operated by the town without paying some compensation.

“A separate entity cannot use any town property without paying for it. So in the past when they were allowed to use it, they were actually breaking the law. Whether you like things or not, the law, you have to go by it,” says Calloway.

He claims he did give the senior center an option to pay a fee to utilize the space whenever they desired, but the center declined. Calloway says the previous administration allowed many things to go unchecked, but he’s on a mission to keep his record clean.

Calloway hopes to utilize the building as a center for the entire community of Baileyton, giving everyone the opportunity to gather. However, members of the senior community remain upset.

The Baileyton Senior Center has an active Facebook page, where it has been sharing updates.

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