ST. CLAIRSVILLE - Senior services were discussed at length during Wednesday's Belmont County Commissioners' meeting.
Jerry Milliken addressed the board on behalf of the Flushing Senior Center to inquire about issues, including the date of the changeover from senior services being handled through the Department of Job and Family Services to a separate entity after a delay of numerous months. He also inquired about promised monthly financial statements, which have not been received.
Commissioner Matt Coffland answered that the changeover remains on hold due to other business and the process of information gathering. He added that the commissioners will look into the delay in monthly statements and ensure their delivery.
Commissioner Ginny Favede said a senior services program required a full-time executive director to devote the entirety of their work to the senior citizens. She added that the board is still pursuing promised commitments to establish senior centers in Flushing and St. Clairsville, as well as a full facility to move the kitchen out of Oak View. She noted commissioners are examining properties and will look for architects. She hopes to have a full-time director in place before then.
Commissioner Charles R. Probst Jr. agreed that they are looking into sites and taking factors such as travel time and available roads into account. He added that the county's attorney continues to provide information regarding details of the change.
Probst said a slow-phased transition will be necessary to ensure that services continue smoothly. He pointed out factors such as the need for continued work of personnel in DJFS through the process.
"This is going to be, in my opinion, a long transition," he said.
Coffland added that he remains opposed to the changeover due to financial reasons, but said he will cast his vote in accordance with the evidence.
"I have watched this program very closely, and if the numbers can be proven that it saves money, that's what it's all about. Watching out for your dollars. It's what you elected me for."
Clarence Briggs, visitor, said some seniors object to being transported by Medicaid services such as by ambulance or taxi.
Probst said the commissioners are obtaining a cost statement from DJFS on transportation expenses for seniors if the drivers were full-time rather than part-time, compared to current transportation methods. He added that he believed the seniors should have a choice on which service provides their transportation. He said there would be work for the senior and emergency services.
Coffland added that 30 to 50 clients are transported daily through senior services, but additional contracts are taken on by the fire departments and federally refunded. He agreed the system should be examined.
Probst added that the board is also awaiting information to determine if a separate entity under the commissioners could be eligible for complete Title 19 funds to fund all senior services drivers, along with fire departments, for a savings of levy money.
Favede added that the respect due to the senior citizens and recognition of the county's continued approval of senior services levies would take a high priority.
Coffland argued that the ability to make a savings in transportation costs was a factor in the original decision to move senior services to DJFS.
Favede later said the primary reason for the change to DJFS was primarily to gain better financial oversight on the program and levy dollars.
Probst suggested advertising for the position of coordinator for the program. Coffland said such a move should wait until cost data is received.
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