The congregate dining program that takes place at the Alexandria Senior Center is moving to a new location.
Effective September 23, Nutrition Services, Inc. (NSI), which has been leasing kitchen space at the center to prepare and serve the food, will be serving noon meals in the Viking Towers Apartments' dining room in Alexandria.
"Viking Towers will offer a welcoming, positive atmosphere where seniors can enjoy a great meal as well as the opportunity to volunteer and socialize with others," said Larry Kroeger, NSI president in a news release issued Friday.
The change comes in the wake of a rift that developed between NSI and the Alexandria Senior Center, which is in financial trouble and recently cashed in a certificate of deposit of $59,200 to stay afloat.
Last December, the senior center asked NSI to triple its monthly rate. NSI ultimately agreed to a 25 percent increase.
At a June board meeting, Senior Center Director Ann Esterberg, after taking heat from past and present board members about the center's financial decline, said that NSI wasn't reimbursing the center fairly.
NSI maintains that even if it would have agreed to triple the reimbursement, the center would still face a monthly operating deficit of about $2,600.
Last month, the Alexandria Senior Center Board voted to terminate the lease agreement with NSI.
When the transition is made, meals will be prepared at the senior center in Glenwood where NSI already prepares and serves senior meals. The current head cook in Alexandria will stay on with NSI and cook in Glenwood, along with the current cook there, Kroeger said.
Food will be delivered in bulk to Viking Towers and dished up to individuals eating there as well as for those people receiving Meals on Wheels in Alexandria.
"We prepare meals at kitchens in several communities and transport them to nearby communities with no loss of food quality," Kroger noted. "We will have the same cook and menu as we have now so seniors will continue to get the great meals they have been getting and will not notice any difference in quality or service."
Kroeger added that NSI has been "extremely happy" with the cooperation from the Glenwood Senior Center and Viking Towers in helping NSI make the transition.
"Both organizations share our goal of helping the seniors of Alexandria," he said. "We are looking forward to a long and successful relationship with them."
Those with questions about the change may contact NSI at 1-877-677-3319.
When contacted by the Echo Press Monday, Esterberg said that those who live at the Alexandria Senior Center can make arrangements with NSI to have their meals delivered to their apartments. She added those arrangements would have to be made between the residents and NSI and that she would not be involved.
In the Alexandria Senior Center's August newsletter, Esterberg wrote that NSI has threatened to pull out of the senior center for the last three years. "There was always a threat hanging over our heads," Esterberg wrote. "They thought we couldn't exist without them. I guess we thought so too, but our thinking has changed."
Esterberg wrote that "this entire debacle" was created by board member, Paul C. Anderson. She said he had an agenda for NSI when he joined the board and wanted to destroy her and see the senior center implode under her service.
Anderson flatly denies the allegations and said his only concern since joining the board is that the seniors at the center are well taken care of.
In the newsletter, Esterberg wrote that she has been used as a "shooting target for the past seven months" and had been accused of "doing rotten things."
"To those people who know me, you know how to filter out the crap and I'm still the person you think I am," Esterberg wrote. "To those people who find themselves in a pack of sheep? Get some new friends."
When the Echo Press asked her on Monday if she wanted to make a statement in her defense, Esterberg declined, saying that she would be misquoted.