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After hearing concerns that guests at the senior citizens center could be the targets of identity theft, a plan to open a welcome center at the former Owen County Public Library could be shelved.
The property at 118 North Main Street was deeded to the Owen County Fiscal Court with plans that it would be used by the Owen County Senior Center in February.
At the time, the Owen County Tourism Commission requested an area near the front of the building for a welcome center and promotional area.
Mike Grisham, whose mother attends the center on a daily basis, and his wife Dede Grisham, attended the April 9 Owen County Fiscal Court meeting to express their concerns on the welcome center.
Dede Grisham said her mother-in-law is a trusting person who loves to talk with other people, but that could become a problem if a welcome center were located in the same building with the seniors.
“… What alarms me is her being taken advantage of by doing something like giving her name to strangers,” Dede Grisham said. “… We all know there are people just waiting to take advantage of our seniors. All they need is a name in which they can go to Google, the Whitepages on the Internet and get their phone, address and even directions to their house in one push of a button.”
Mike Grisham said he hoped the court would continue to support the senior center.
“As public officials, compromise is one of the most used tools in the box and your first thought might be to find some middle ground, but for our seniors, our friends, our family who attend the center there is no middle ground when it comes to safety,” Mike Grisham said.
Mike Marston also expressed concerns for the seniors’ safety during the meeting.
Chairman of the Owen County Tourism Commission David Morgan said he hopes the seniors, fiscal court, library board and tourism commission can meet to clear up any concerns.
“There’s a lot of misinformation that has been put out there,” Morgan said. “We’re trying to get everybody together … I don’t know what the decision will be, but I’d like to see the four entities get together and talk rationally where everyone can express their concerns and have a decision based on facts rather than the rumors and misinformation.”
Morgan declined to comment further on what he felt the rumors and misinformation were.
According to the deed between the Owen County Public Library and the Owen County Fiscal Court, the old public library is to be used for public purposes, but does not specify what those public purposes could be.
Owen County Judge-executive Carolyn Keith said she feels the concerns are a valid point.
“Probably like the members of the tourism commission, I had not given safety a thought,” Keith said. “But the minute I heard their concerns, I understood their point. The restrooms are located at the rear of the building, which would put someone visiting the welcome center very close to the seniors.”
Owen County Senior Center Director Frances Cozine Steurer said she’s completely opposed to the idea of a welcome center located at the same building with the seniors.
“We have some seniors that have Alzheimer’s,” Cozine Steurer said. “I have some that will walk up and give their names and everything to people – that’s all you have to know nowadays is their name and you can find out anything. I have seniors that have been scammed already, we don’t want something like that to happen again.”
Morgan said the concerns are legitimate, but the question is whether the concerns would become reality at the welcome center.
“Protecting seniors from those kinds of things is always a legitimate concern,” Morgan said. “People taking advantage of seniors is always a concern and should be a concern, but it’s something we’re going to have to talk about.”