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Lewis panel proposes additional funding for senior meals

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LOWVILLE — A Lewis County legislative committee is proposing that an extra $6,000 be budgeted for the senior nutrition program to help ensure its stability in 2013.

“The meals are important to a lot of your clientele,” County Manager David H. Pendergast said to Office for the Aging staffers during a committee meeting Wednesday.

The legislative Office for the Aging Committee voted 3-0 to recommend the additional funding for the meals program, with the money to be covered through extra fund balance use.

The full Board of Legislators still will have to approve the change, along with any other proposed alterations to the tentative budget, at its Dec. 4 meeting. Legislators plan to adopt the spending plan at the same meeting.

The tentative budget unveiled earlier this month by Mr. Pendergast included an increase in funding for the nutrition program from $321,569 to $352,304, primarily to cover contractual increases in per-meal costs by providers.

The county enters three-year contracts — typically including annual cost escalators — with individuals or restaurants to provide hot meals to senior citizens both at congregate sites in Lowville, Croghan, Harrisville, Copenhagen, Lyons Falls and Osceola and for home deliveries to those eligible for that service.

Donations by participating seniors are to cover $105,000 of the program’s cost, with federal and state money also slated to help subsidize it.

Office for the Aging staff members reported that the senior nutrition program this year likely will run $10,000 to $12,000 over budget, but there is money left in other agency line items that could be transferred to cover the shortfall. And they were concerned that a similar situation may occur in 2013, when there may not be unspent money available elsewhere in the departmental budget.

Committee Chairman Philip C. Hathway, R-Harrisville, suggested adding $6,000 to the budget line to provide a little more financial leeway for the program.

There was some discussion about adding even more funding, but lawmakers decided to stick with Mr. Hathway’s initial suggestion for the time being.

Mr. Pendergast noted that additional money could be transferred into that account at any point next year, if deemed necessary. “We’re going to have to really watch it close,” Mr. Hathway said.

Tina M. Stanford, nutrition services coordinator at Office for the Aging, said office staff will continue to educate seniors on their ability to use money from the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, formerly called food stamps, as donations toward the senior meals program.

The county’s six meal sites are open four days per week. County officials since September have dropped one meal per month as a cost-cutting move, but most of the site vendors have replaced it with a non-county-run soup and sandwich day that essentially must be covered by the day’s donations.

Home deliveries are done three days per week, with recipients also getting two frozen meals each week.

The legislative committee on Wednesday also heard a short presentation on the annual Santa for Seniors and Christmas Sharing programs. The former program allows residents to “adopt” a senior citizen for gift-giving purposes, while the latter offers food baskets for needy families and individuals, including seniors.

Donations, including monetary, will be accepted by the Office for the Aging.

For more information, call the office at 376-5313.

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