Thursday, August 13, 2009

Senior Center To Cut Back On Transportation

By Mike Sievers
The Socorro Senior Center is cutting back on the transportation services it offers because of budgetary reasons, county senior centers Director Lewis Auerbach said at Tuesday night’s county commission meeting.
Auerbach said the centers’ transportation priorities will be transporting seniors from their homes to medical facilities and pharmacies; and transporting them from their homes to the senior center.
“I just don’t have the budget to do the things that the seniors want me to do, so I prioritized the things we can do,” Auerbach told the Socorro County Board of Commissioners on Tuesday. “I don’t have the money to do the transportation that seniors want me to do – Wal-Mart, Smith’s – so I had to implement this policy.”
Seniors who have alternate means of transportation are not eligible under the policy. There is a two-stop limit, and transportation must be completed by 1 p.m.
In July, transportation costs used up 13.3 percent of the amount allocated in the centers’ transportation budget for the current fiscal year, according to a worksheet Auerbach provided to the commissioners. That number would have been about 8.3 percent if the centers were on track to meet their budget this fiscal year.
Auerbach said the centers were under budget for home-delivered meals in July, so after this month, he should have a good idea as to how the program is going, and he should be able to start addressing people on a waiting list for that service.
Auerbach said he also has had to cut back on homemaking services for seniors, stopping service for three seniors in Veguita and two in Magdalena, also because of his tight budget.
“I feel we should have more money in the budget for homemaking,” he told the commissioners. “Maybe next year we can get some more money for that.”
The commissioners said they agreed.
Auerbach said the centers have 11 vans total, most of them being older gas guzzlers. He said by the end of the year, the centers will be able to purchase four new vans and eliminate five gas guzzlers, which would cut down on transportation costs.
In other business:
• County Manager Delilah Walsh reported that she has applied for three federal stimulus grants through the State Government Services Fund.
Walsh sent in applications for: the Veguita Health Center for $181,674; improvements to County Road 91 for $109,588; and the EM Saiz Park in Polvadera for $400,000.
• Walsh said her office decided to re-bid for the new heating, ventilation and air conditioning system at the senior center so that “all bidders were bidding ‘apples to apples.’ … This will delay the project, but we’ll have an award recommendation for the commission soon,” Walsh wrote in a report to the commission.
• The county awarded a bid to Golden Equipment Co. for $194,781.64 for a much-discussed and badly needed new chip spreader for the Road Department.
• With Commission Vice Chairman Danny Monette recusing himself from discussion, the commission awarded three bids to the lowest bidder, Monette Ford: one for a sport utility vehicle for the DWI office for $28,110; another for a Ford Fusion for the Road Department for $14,500; and another for a diesel mechanics’ pickup for $43,611.
• The commission also awarded a bid for a 3,000-gallon water tender for the Abeytas Fire District to Freedom Fire Equipment of Marietta, Ga., for $154,300.
• The commission approved the annual roster of the Community Health Improvement Council for the county’s health council, Socorro Community Options, Prevention and Education, or SCOPE. The commissioners were concerned that all the members were from Socorro except two: one from Magdalena and one from San Antonio.
SCOPE coordinator Bobbi Jo McIntire said she wants to set up teleconferencing at the meetings so people from northern Socorro County and Magdalena could join in without having to make the trip.
“It seems a little unbalanced,” commissioner Rumaldo Griego said.
“Honestly, it’s a lot unbalanced,” McIntire replied.
McIntire said part of the problem is people don’t want to drive to a half-hour meeting just to make an hour-long drive back home. She said membership is open to any individual, organization, non-profit, or any group that wants to address health issues.
“Between myself and Leo Mendoza, I think we can get some people from up north to become members,” Griego said.
McIntire said it is easy to become a member; people just need to attend three meetings. “On the third meeting, I put them on the agenda for a vote. We’ve never turned anyone down,” she said.
SCOPE meets from 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. the third Thursday of every month at the state Human Services Department at 1014 N. California St., next to Socorro Springs.
• The commission canceled its next regular meeting, which was scheduled for Aug. 25. There will be a brief business meeting at 10 a.m. Friday, Aug. 21.

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