County to take over seniors’programs

LIHU’E — Despite objections from Kaua’i Senior Centers Inc., the county is

planning to take over educational and recreational programs now managed by the

nonprofit group.

“It’s in the county’s best interest to make this change

because we are better equipped to administratively handle the program,” said

Mayor Maryanne Kusaka.

“The county continues to support Kauai Senior

Centers, Inc. as a nonprofit organization to enhance the lives of seniors, and

we will continue to seek their advice in all matters related to seniors,” she

said.

The program serves 843 seniors islandwide. It once served more than

4,000 seniors, but participation dropped to less than a fourth of that number

partly due to the lack of new programs.

KSC Executive Director Lana Rosa

said KSC has been criticized by the county for not creating new programs for a

new wave of younger seniors.

The change in administration becomes

effective July 1.

KSC Inc. Board President John Wyatt said the non-profit

group won’t give up the program without a fight.

The group plans to meet

with the Kaua’i County Council to work out a solution that will allow for the

renewal of the contract, which expires June 30.

Wyatt said he will ask

whether it is legal for the county to award a contract to one of its own

departments without going through a formal bid contract process.

“Certainly we can do the job, we have the people with the expertise, ” he

said. “The seniors don’t work well with the parks and recreation people,” he

said.

News of the change came as a surprise to the KSC board, Wyatt

said.

At a board meeting this month, county officials endorsed KSC’s

continued management of a federal job training program for seniors.

“There

were no signs the county did not want to renew the entire program,” Wyatt

said.

Since 1968, KSC has won a yearly contract with the county to provide

services, Wyatt said. Classes include : Hawaiian quilts, Japanese dancing,

basket weaving, knitting, crafts and Filipino dancing.

But seniors’

interests, Rosa said, nowadays tend to be more lively activities like golfing,

hiking, sightseeing excursions and computer use.

“The existing program is

designed for the retired plantation workers,” she said. “We never changed, we

stayed right where were.”

KSC wants to be progressive in the types of

activities it offers, Wyatt said. It currently offers computer classes at four

of the nine neighborhood centers and has received requests for more computer

classes.

In addition, KSC would welcome suggestions for any other new

programs, Wyatt said.

Should the county sever funding, KSC plans to seek

funding from other sources to continue operating the program, although it could

be scaled down due to less funding, Wyatt said.

“Even without the support

of the county, we will provide what the seniors want – bowling, baseball and

extravaganzas.” KSC, he said, recently secured a $28,000 grant to bolster its

current budget and future budgets.

The organization has a $127,000 contract

with the county Agency of Elderly Affairs. About half of the funds come from

federal sources and the other half from county sources.

Wyatt said KSC has

had accounting and personnel problems in the past, but they have been

rectified.

Rosa said the nonprofit group may not have complied with

contract requirements in the past 10 years due to limited resources and

manpower.

But the group now has a full-time staff that is committed to

providing a full range of services for the seniors, Rosa said.

“We want to

prove ourselves,” she said. “I want to bring our credibility up, if we have

lost it all.”

Wyatt and Rosa said they hope the program continues in some

form to serve the seniors.

“The bottom line is that I want to make it good

for seniors,” Rosa said. “This program is for them.”

County officials have

echoed that sentiment. “We are asking for the cooperation of all parties in

this effort to give the senior programs the stability and continuity that they

so richly deserve,” Kusaka said.

Without the county’s financial support,

KSC will probably have to move out of the neighborhood centers and relocate

Wyatt said.

KCS currently has 13 employees, but some may lose their jobs

with the end of the county support.

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