Senior Center sees similar problems
The Methow Valley Community Center has been plagued by a rash of break-ins, petty theft and vandalism in the past month. Community Center Executive Director Kirsten Ostlie encountered someone in the kitchen who had stuffed several items into a backpack, including utensils, food and popcorn. After she caught him, the man apologized, Ostlie said.
She also found the kitchen door had been damaged when someone tried to pry it open with a screwdriver. “It’s disheartening, to say the least,” Ostlie said.
The community center is just that — a hub of resources for the entire community, housing the Twisp Public Library, music and dance teachers, internet access and restrooms. “People come in and hang out — that’s the way we want to keep it,” Ostlie said.
But the break-ins have led to concerns about safety, requiring the center to restrict access and lock doors in the evenings, even when there are activities or classes in session.
The restrooms, available to the public during the day, represent a significant chunk of the community center’s budget — about $1,500 per year for paper supplies and maintenance, Ostlie said. But she and other staff have had to deal with disgusting vandalism, such as when someone crammed a full box of paper supplies into a filthy toilet, she said.
Ostlie has reported the incidents to the Twisp Police Department. The police couldn’t be reached by press time.
The Methow Valley Senior Center, in a separate wing of the building, has been dealing with theft and vandalism for years. People steal donations every night if volunteers don’t bring the items inside, senior center board member Rosalie Hutson said.
The senior center asks people to bring donations only when they’re open, but people regularly drop off items at night. Some donations are of good quality, but when they’re just left outside, the center may never see them, Hutson said.
Other things are simply trash, often wet and moldy items or bags contaminated by mice and mouse droppings. “We’ve had mice jump out of the boxes,” Hutson said. The center provides food services to seniors and can’t have unsanitary items there, she said.
Fortunately, the problem of trash contaminated with vermin has decreased since the summer, Hutson said.
The senior center has started locking the bins where they collect donations they can’t use, which are given to a service in Yakima that distributes them. Before they started locking the bins, people would rummage through the contents to find items they wanted, and dump everything else on the ground, under the barrels of oil used for the heating system. “Then it’s no good for anything, because it’s covered in oil,” Hutson said.
The senior center also now locks its trash dumpster to reduce the amount they’re spending to throw away other people’s trash.
The police have issued no-trespassing orders for several individuals who were captured on the senior center’s security camera, Hutson said, but some come back anyway.
The thefts occur almost every night. “People ‘shop’ at 2, 3, 4 o’clock in the morning,” Hutson said.
The volunteers are puzzled and dismayed by the thefts, particularly since items at the senior center are quite inexpensive, usually $4 per bag, and anyone who’s desperate can get something for free, Hutson said.
“We’re trying to keep the building safe and clean. People are wrecking it for others,” Ostlie said.