Grand County Administrator Ruth Dillon addressed a citizen’s concerns at the Dec. 18 council meeting.
Sue Allemand, who has served on the Council of Aging board, expressed specific concerns regarding the Grand County Senior Center at the Oct. 16 county council meeting.
Some of the concerns that Allemand expressed in the Oct. 16 meeting included decreased attendance, budget management and a price increase for senior lunches.
Dillon investigated the complaints and shared her findings at the Dec. 18 council meeting. She was able to use a survey that was conducted last April to assist her in her report.
Fifty-five surveys were handed out to seniors at the Grand Center and sent with home-delivered meals over a two-week period. Of the 55 surveys handed-out, 44 surveys were received and reviewed. Survey questions were specific to the menu, service and the communication between Grand Center employees and the patrons.
Dillon reported that attendance is indeed down.
Since 2006 when the new building was opened, thirty regular senior center participants have passed away. In 2011 alone, twenty seniors who had previously attended senior center activities no longer did because they moved out of the area, into the Canyonlands Care Center or have died.
Home delivery of meals has also dropped significantly. There had been 80 to 82 home-delivered meals served each day. That list is now closer to 60 and there is no waiting list.
“The April survey to seniors provides some insight as to why attendance is down, some of which has to do with the lack of friendliness among some seniors,” stated Dillon in her detailed report. “The survey indicates that the majority of seniors who participate are pleased with the Grand Center. Since attendance is down, it would be worthwhile to send the survey to those who are no longer attending.”
Dillon said that the majority of the surveys received were “largely positive.”
“Your service is the best,” one survey said. “The service is very good and they are very friendly. I really enjoy coming here,” stated another.
However, there were a few complaints that patrons were unfriendly.
“The patrons need to be more friendly and make newcomers to feel welcome,” one survey said. Another wrote, “Haven’t attended for awhile. People should be more friendly so you don’t feel like you shouldn’t be there.”
During the Dec. 18 council meeting Allemand said that there is a problem at the Senior Center where newcomers may feel unwelcomed because seniors will reserve tables and seats. She said that this has been issue at other senior centers in the state and that Carbon County is combating the problem by no longer allowing seniors to reserve seats. She said Carbon County also has greeters available to make newcomers feel welcome.
Dillon said that she found “no evidence of budget mismanagement.”
She contacted the Association of League of Governments (ALG), which provides the majority of the funding for senior programming.
The ALG reported that Verleen Striblen, director of the Grand Center, “did an outstanding job with preparing to cut 8 percent during the last fiscal cliff, which didn’t happen. She was really good at keeping costs in line.”
The ALG also said that Striblen “follows audit procedures and audit trails to the guidelines.”
At the October 2012 Council on Aging board meeting three board members voted in favor and one opposed to raising the suggested meal donation for seniors from $2.50 to $3. Allemand opposed the increase and said that “she will remain vocally against it until she receives the current reports on the costs per meal.”
In her findings, Dillon reported that as it is a “suggested” donation, seniors may contribute whatever amount they desire.
“There is nothing that requires seniors to pay the increased amount, given that it is a suggested donation,” Dillon said. “Seniors may contribute whatever they want, and signs at the registration desk and in the newsletter state ‘suggested donation’. Some seniors contribute $1 and one senior has contributed $100 to help other seniors.”
The ALG stated that the industry average is close to $8 per meal.
“I wish to commend Ms. Allemand for expressing her concerns last fall at times during this year,” Dillon said at the end of her report. “These concerns catalyzed staff to work together to create a survey regarding these concerns. The responses help us better understand our services to our seniors, whether they attend regularly at the Grand Center or whether they receive home-delivered meals. Grand Center surveys are performed annually, so a point will be made to determine the seniors who no longer participate to find out why.”
Near the end of the Dec. 18 county council meeting, the council was asked to make appointments to different county boards. Allemand’s position on the Council of Aging was up for re-appointment. The council chose not to reappoint Allemand.