OAKLEY -- After spending more than a decade in cramped quarters, the city's elderly residents officially have a new home.
Oakley city council members on Tuesday agreed to lease the former fire station on Second Street to Oakley Senior Citizens, although they have yet to work out some of the terms.
The nonprofit has been meeting in a county-owned building on Rosemary Lane whose size has prevented the organization from holding recreational activities and other events that might draw more people than the structure can accommodate.
The physical constraints have limited the group's membership to just 42, a small fraction of the city's estimated 3,000 seniors, said Oakley Senior Citizens President Karen Gallegos before the meeting.
"I think our senior community is important," said Councilwoman Diane Burgis, noting that the elderly merit the city's help because they tend to be lower-income yet aren't a burden on the police department. "They aren't creating a lot of issues."
The three-year lease calls for Oakley Senior Citizens to pay a monthly token of $1 for the old fire station until mid-2015, when the rent will increase to $500 per month through June 14, 2016.
The organization will be responsible for water and sewer bills; what has yet to be decided is what kind of financial commitment the city will make toward the upkeep of the premises, both in terms of making repairs to an aging building and maintaining the adjoining lawns.
Burgis suggested the seniors ask Ironhouse Sanitary and Diablo Water districts if those agencies would be willing to waive their fees, and she floated the idea of enlisting the help of a local group of permaculture advocates to replace at least part of the lawn with a drought-tolerant garden.
Burgis also asked city staff members to look into the possibility of the city applying for federal money earmarked for senior services that's in a fund the county manages.
Council members noted that because Oakley has fewer than 50,000 residents, it doesn't qualify for the automatic, annual government funds that Antioch and Brentwood receive for their senior centers.
Burgis reminded members who were in the audience that they need to drum up the money to cover these and other expenses.
Following the meeting, she noted that because Oakley Senior Citizens now has the space to expand its membership, the chances of it receiving a grant are better.
Councilman Randy Pope took a different approach to helping the group. The city's recreation department doesn't offer any senior-oriented activities, so perhaps private instructors could contract with the city to provide fee-based classes, he said.
The idea would be for the city to hand over some of that revenue to Oakley Senior Citizens, which in turn could apply it to the costs of leasing the building.
Gallegos says her group hopes to move in at the end of July but first must make the building wheelchair-accessible; the bathrooms need railings and wider doors, the entrance requires a ramp and the sidewalk's curb must be sloped.
Contact Rowena Coetsee at 925-779-7141. Follow her on Twitter.com/RowenaCoetsee.