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City dispels rumor it plans to ‘defund’ Durango-La Plata Senior Center

Letter containing false information was posted to residents’ doors at a 53-unit living complex in Three Springs
An unsigned letter posted to residents’ doors at Miremonte senior affordable housing complex, managed by Volunteers of America, falsely said the city of Durango plans to defund the Durango-La Plata Senior Center. (Christian Burney/Durango Herald)

The city of Durango pushed back against a letter that falsely claimed the city plans to defund the Durango-La Plata County Senior Center by removing it from its joint city-county sales tax budget.

An employee with Volunteers of America posted letters on residents’ doors at the 53-unit Miremonte senior affordable housing complex in Three Springs saying City Council is “discussing removing the Joint Sales Tax moneys from the senior center,” threatening to “wipe out ¼ of the center’s budget” as early as June.

In a tersely worded news release Thursday, the city said that is simply not true.

The city does not have unilateral control over joint sales tax funds, according to the release; rather, use must be agreed to by the city and the county.

The letter posted at Miremonte senior complex includes the VOA logo and is written in the first person, but is not signed. It contains four subheads and encourages residents to write to and email city councilors and county commissioners and “make sure they understand how important the Joint Sales Tax money is to keeping our senior community well served through the senior center.”

“The whole thing is just weird,” Tom Sluis, spokesman for the city, said in an email to The Durango Herald.

The city said it supports the Durango-La Plata Senior Center and there are no plans to cut funding. The senior center provides transportation and home-chore services, lunch programs to Durango and Bayfield residents, Meals on Wheels, Medicare counseling, aging and disability resources, and more.

The release said City Council makes decisions based on majority votes in public and no such announcement or discussion to defund the senior center has occurred.

“It's unfortunate that the newsletter containing false claims was sent to elderly Miremonte residents without the VOA first reaching out to the city,” Sluis said in the release.

Sluis clarified on Friday the letters were taped to residents’ doors at the Miremonte facility. He said he is unsure how many residents received a copy of the letter.

In an interview with Jon Ewing, VOA communications manager in Denver, Ewing said a couple of employees took it upon themselves to distribute the letter containing false information.

“It might seem like a small deal for some people, but for people who rely on the senior center, that’s a big deal,” he said. “The one thing we really care about is making sure our residents don’t have anything to worry about. That’s kind of the whole point (of) taking care of people.”

He said it was an “egregious mistake.” There will be consequences to be determined for the VOA employees who distributed the letter, he said.

The county manages the center and the distribution of the joint sales tax. This year, the county allocated $690,236 from the joint sales tax fund for senior center operations as well as $325,000 for possible capital expenses, the release says.


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