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ANDY ROBERTS/Beacon

The White Lake Senior Center was issued an eviction notice last week by the City of Montague.

MONTAGUE – The City of Montague has issued an eviction notice to the White Lake Senior Center.

According to the notice, the senior center, located at 8741 Ferry St., has until March 19 to move out of the property.

“Last Tuesday, we received a letter, the city manager walked it into us, and the letter was a notice of default. And then today we received a letter that was a notice to evict and that we had to get out of there by March 12, and that one was signed by the county,” said board of directors President Andrew Fink, White Lake Senior Center.

The reason for the eviction isn’t due to a lack of payment to the city. The White Lake Senior Center’s current lease agreement requires them to only pay $1 a year to rent the building from the City of Montague.

Instead, city manager Jeff Auch said the issue was due to the senior center not adhering to guidelines involving mask wearing, social distancing and mass gatherings as outlined by Michigan’s Gathering and Face Mask Order.

Auch said this isn’t the first time that this has been an issue with the White Lake Senior Center. The City of Montague took similar actions against the organization in July 2020, but after corrective action was taken, the senior center was allowed to stay at the property.

Most recently the city has received complaints regarding a lack of adherence to the gathering and face mask order. With the senior center being across the street from city hall, Auch said city officials have been routinely checking to see if there was any merit to the complaints.

However, Fink said they have been in compliance and believes it is all a misunderstanding.

“The truth of this is there isn’t a place in the state that doesn’t have people violating the mask rules now and again. But as an institution – as a group – we don’t violate the mask rules. We have masks available to everybody, we give members and our guests plenty of notice about the requirements to wear a mask,” said Fink.

Oftentimes, Fink said, people come to the center to play cards and drink coffee, sometimes at the same time. Which is where he thinks some of the confusion is coming from.

“People will walk by will see people playing cards without a mask. What they don’t realize is that they are sitting there drinking coffee like they do across the street at the Book Nook where they are drinking coffee or a beverage,” said Fink.

“There are also people who have a medical reason where they can’t wear a mask. We are keeping track of this so that we know who makes that claim or not, so we can keep track of those people that aren’t masked.”

Due to the notice they recently received from the city, Fink said that they have been more aggressive with the rule’s enforcement.

“Today, a guy walked in with a mask in his hand, and he kept walking towards me. And I kept saying to him, ‘put your mask on,” said Fink.

Fink said he has been in contact with a lawyer, but the White Lake Senior Center has yet to hire one since it would first need to be approved by the board. Although he said he is willing to fight to remain at the location, it is his hope that something can be worked out that doesn’t involve the two parties going to court.

“We will do whatever we can do to fight them. But I would rather not fight them, and figure out what it is we need to do and do it,” said Fink.

Currently, Fink said there is no plan B, but if the White Lake Senior Center is evicted, he believes they would find an alternative location.

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