ST. MARYS — The St. Marys Senior Center will remain closed until 2021 because of concerns COVID-19 could be spread among the city’s most vulnerable populations.

City manager Robert Horton said it was a difficult decision because he realizes how many people participated in activities and depended on lunches served on weekdays at the center until the pandemic struck.

But he said those who have attended the center would be unable to participate in recreational activities, meals and other programs in a safe way.

“I spent the last 40 years taking care of people,” he said. “We haven’t walked away from them, and we won’t.”

Jim Stein, former lawyer for the St. Marys Hospital Authority, is among the members who resigned when the city took control of the senior program last year. The intent of the authority was to manage the center “free of the political arena” and most of the existing members resigned in protest after the takeover, Stein said.

The city’s decision to close the center for the remainder of the year was “a blow to the senior program” he said.

“Just shutting it down is not the answer,” he said. “There are people who absolutely need the services provided by that center.”

Horton, who served as the city’s fire chief before he was selected as city manager, said he worries about the well-being of those who participated in activities at the center.

Horton said the city is conducting virtual activities with the seniors including online exercise programs, hobbies and crafts. They have also held group calls for everyone to socialize, he said.

City officials have also contacted programs that deliver meals to seniors and those in need. And there are services available to provide transportation for shopping and doctor’s appointments, he said.

“I can’t bring them all together,” Horton said of the seniors. “I know how important it is not to put people in jeopardy.”

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