Springfield trustees mulling over senior meal program
Seniors who enjoy activities and events at Springfield’s Boyd Esler Senior and Community Center attended the June 14 Springfield Board of Trustees meeting to express concern for several issues at the facility.
According to the facility website, the center, which was established in 1974, offers seniors and other community members a variety of programs and activities, such as board and card games, health screenings and day trips. In addition, home-cooked meals are available weekdays at 3:30 p.m. The program is partially funded through a grant from the Area Agency on Aging and by voluntary donations from diners. The meal costs a voluntary donation of $4 for anyone older than 60 and $7 for anyone younger.
Trustee Dean Young said the meal program is under review due to the costs involved. He said in 2009 and 2010, the meal program was supported with about $33,500 in General Fund money from the township.
Trustee Bruce Killian added that in 2011, the township’s financial support for the center was reduced to $20,000.
“The issue here is that the meal program is costing residents more money than it brings in,” said Young. “This is a factor that we have to consider.”
Young also said recent statistics show 71 percent of those served through the meal program, which averages about 20 participants daily, are not from Springfield, and while more participants help pay for the program, “residents are paying for nonresidents” to participate in the meal program.
Eugene Cooke, president of the senior center board, and about 10 seniors attended the meeting to discuss concerns related to the center.
“We strongly feel there are some discrepancies, shortcomings and oversights here,” he said.
Ruth Burchett told trustees she believes some operational changes enacted by Bobby Dinkins, appointed as the center’s director in July 2009, “do not support seniors.”
Peggy Hodgman said Dinkins has taken control over some funds, which she later identified as several hundred dollars. Those include money raised through center activities such as bingo, which costs participants 50 cents.
Robert Conauer supported the meal program, calling it “very helpful,” and expressed some concern about a rumor to sell the center and eliminate all programs.
Trustees responded to some of the concerns raised.
Trustee Deborah Davis said she wanted to defer any comments until they could get some input from Dinkins, who was on vacation and did not attend the meeting.
Young responded to the money issue and said it’s illegal for the township to sponsor activities and collect money and then hand over proceeds to a private entity. That activity would draw some concern from auditors, he added. He also stated there were no plans to sell the center and eliminate the programs.
The trustees agreed to review the concerns with Dinkins and to continue monitoring the center.
Also during the public comment portion of the meeting, Springfield resident Elisa Rockich, part owner of Huth Rubbish Service, spoke to trustees about a possible plan to create a trash aggregation program for the township.
Rockich said the 62-year-old company serves about 1,400 local residents and employs 17 people, with 11 of them from Springfield or graduates of Springfield High School.
“This would be a hardship to us without an opt out,” she said. “We plan to maintain our low rates of $57 a quarter for full service.”
One senior in attendance supported the company, stating “they provide great service.”
Davis said she has found residents of neighboring communities are paying less than half of what she pays for similar service, and when trustees tried to adopt a trash aggregation program several years ago with an opt-out option, “it was a disaster.”
Trustees also stated they have just begun to look into the matter, and public meetings to gather input from residents are planned.
Peggy Reed, founder of the Arlington Neighborhood Association, also addressed trustees during the public comment portion of the meeting. Reed announced a special meeting to fight proposed “significant sewer rates increases” to affect 13 area communities will take place June 25 at 7:30 p.m. at the Quirk Cultural Center, 1201 Grant St. in Cuyahoga Falls. The public is invited to attend.
Reed said small-business owners are working together to fight the proposal and suggested residents also need to work together to prevent the increases.
In other business at the meeting, trustees agreed:
• to pay $1,600 for annual testing of the Springfield Fire Department’s self-contained breathing units;
• to pay $1,894 to purchase traffic citation and field arrest summonses for the Police Department; and
• to renew Nancy Dotson’s appointment to the Zoning Commission until May 20, 2017.
Officials also announced the state auditor’s recent regular audit of the township’s 2011 financial condition found no reportable conditions.
The next regular Springfield trustees’ meeting will take place June 28 at 7 p.m. at Town Hall, 2459 Canfield Road.
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