CRESTVIEW — Oliver Wade is no stranger to Crestview’s senior activity center. The agile 78-year-old retiree with an artistic flair plays there with his band, Belles and Beaus, every Saturday from 6-8:30 p.m.
But lately, he says, his band has been told to leave or otherwise was prevented from using the center at their regularly scheduled time.
“We have been preempted from using the center, without any notice,” he said. “One evening we were told to leave, even after we had set up our musical equipment — a task of 40 minutes. The reason — because [another group] wanted to use the building to count cash for an activity on the stage or field.”
The senior center is roughly 250 feet from an amphitheater the city rents out to musicians and other performers. Wade said performances at the amphitheater often take precedence over senior citizens’ use of the center, violating noise ordinances and preventing seniors — some who drive in from Alabama — from accessing the center to see his show.
“The parking lot is often filled with non-seniors who use other parts of the park. Seniors are forced to park on the grass and behind the building. There have been times that access to the rear (the door side next to the pavilion) of the building has been chained off,” he said.
On another occasion, Wade said he arrived to find a youth baseball meeting at the senior center; and on Saturday, June 18, he even called the police because the musicians performing in the amphitheater were so loud that even though he is hard of hearing, “the building’s block walls were vibrating.”
“The overpowering discordance forced us to call the Crestview police,” he said. “The police headquarters building is about 500 feet away from the stage area. They’re apparently deaf.”
Wade isn’t the only one complaining. One of his 80-something band mates — who requested anonymity out of fear of reciprocity — said, “Every time I come to play and someone is using the building I get upset. Two or three times, the building would be used.”
Wade said that repeated calls to the department of public works — which oversees the senior center — have not “yielded any results,” prompting him to take this issue to the media.
“They have no respect for seniors,” he said of the local government officials overseeing the center. “They are suspicious of seniors anyways.”
Crestview’s director of Public Services, Wayne Steele, tells a somewhat different story.
“I have never had any issues with the senior center until I am now getting complaints from this group,” he said. “We don’t have staff; we try to let them manage themselves. They are respectful with the use of the property.”
Steele said he believes the seniors' complaints are mainly caused by double booking and even though the department of public works cannot give advance notice in every instance, they have given up to two months' notice to Wade and his band mates in the past.
“We told them that events at the amphitheater may conflict with events at the senior center,” he said. “We look at the schedule and if there is an event at the amphitheater we let them know. Sometimes they rent it out on a Friday and we are not aware until Monday. So there is a possibility that they can rent it and we cannot give them proper notification.”
In response to Wade’s claim that Steele has never addressed their concerns, Steele said, “tell them to come talk to me so we can work it out.”