MARTIN, Ky. (WYMT) - UPDATE 4/29/14
The Martin Housing Authority rescinded its eviction notice to the Martin Area Senior Citizens Center Tuesday.
"A lot of these folks were really really worried about the evictin notice," said Ned Pillersdorf, attorney for the center. "To a lot of these people, this center is more than just a senior citizens center, it's their home. It's their social life. It's a place where they can eat a meal."
Many of the seniors who use and enjoy the center wanted to see the letter with the withdrawal of the eviction notice before they would believe it.
"We come in here every day and we have dinner," said center vice-chair Walter Dingus. "We talk. If we want to play games, we can play games or watch television."
John Turnley also enjoys the amenities the center offers.
"We have got money invested in the building, and it's just an ideal place for seniors, the ones that live in the apartments here can walk down here," said Turnley. "They don't have to go anywhere except here."
The center had planned a march to city hall to protest the eviction notice, but called the protest off following the withdrawal.
"Mayor Sam Howell and other members of the Martin Housing Authority would have it understood that it has never been the intention of the Martin Housing Authority or the City of Martin to evict those that benefit and enjoy the much deserved services provided by the Martin Senior Citizens board," said a letter sent to Pillersdorf.
Since being served with an eviction notice, the Martin Area Senior Center hired an attorney and they are refusing to leave their building.
In 1994, the center entered a lease agreement with the housing authority that requires the center to pay a dollar each year for rent.
The attorney for the center, Ned Pillersdorf, says that one dollar payment was about six weeks late this year. He says the center is the only place for many of the seniors to go and he calls the eviction notice cruel.
Pillersdorf says, "My clients have asked me to fight this thing all the way through and they are refusing to leave the building, then if we get a court order...i doubt even with a court order they would leave as mad and determined they are to stay."
He adds that even though they do not own the building the seniors gained funding for $125,000 worth of improvements to the center.
Officials with the housing authority could not be reached for comment.
Some senior citizens in Floyd County may soon lose access to services they have enjoyed for years.
An attorney for the Martin Housing Authority said in a letter to the Martin Area Senior Center last week his client did not want to renew a lease agreement on the center's main building.
The letter also asked center officials to vacate the premises within 30 days.
"A lot of the people who live around here are here every day for most of the day," said Walter Clyde Dingus, the center's vice chair. "They sit around here and talk and play games. We've got a pool table and television and they can sit around and socialize. Otherwise they're going to vegetate."
The center also has a kitchen which is used to cook and deliver meals to elderly people near Martin who cannot get out of their homes. This service could be compromised if seniors at the center are not allowed to use the building, Dingus said.
"We have no place to go," he said. "Everyone knows what Martin is like. There's no buildings down here that we could possibly use."
Mary Jarrell, a senior who lives in an apartment near the center and visits the center often, said, "I don't want to leave here. This is my home. And I think that a lot of people around here would be very, very lonely if they didn't have this place to come into."
The center's board members voted Tuesday to seek legal counsel in order to determine their next move.
Board members were under the impression the current lease agreement - which required the center to pay the housing authority one dollar per year in rent - was good through 2020, Dingus said.
If the agreement falls through, the seniors who live in apartments near the center would not be required to move, Dingus said.
An attorney for the Martin Housing Authority could not be reached for comment. Martin's mayor, Sam Howell, also could not be reached for comment.