Seniors Center gets a reprieve

LIHU’E — The Kaua’i County Council has held up plans by the county Office of

Elderly Affairs to take over educational and recreational programs offered to

senior residents by the Kaua’i Seniors Center Inc.

On Wednesday, the

Council said it would consider extending KSC contract by three to six months

until the county Parks and Recreation Division is ready to take over the

programs this year.

The county division came in second behind KSC in

bidding for the $127,000-year contract last year.

At stake is whether the

shift in the management of the programs will affect the quality of programs

both sides say help enrich the lives of elderly participants.

KSC board

President Mel Rapozo predicted services will be disrupted if KSC is not

involved in the transition work.

“Why are we going to deviate from what is

happening now,” he said. “The day-to-day operation, when we can participate

with them in the transition, using the same staff, same program, same senior


Matilda Yoshioka, director of the Offices of Community

Assistance, disagreed, saying said she and her staff don’t anticipate any

interruption in services due to the shift in management, partly because

qualified workers will be hired.

On Wednesday, the Office of Elderly

Affairs asked the Council to hire 10 employees to man the centers during the

transition period. Another 10 employees are expected to hired later.


would be paid under the $127,000 contract, consisting of federal, state and

county funds.

The Council, however, took no action on the request after

Rapozo said his group had made financial and personnel changes to ensure the

work in the transition period would be smooth.

“If the testimony today is

sincere, and I believe it is , then you deserve another chance to be looked

at,” said County Councilman Jimmy Tokioka.

Rapozo said the money problems

cited by the county have been rectified.

The board, he said, will now

require each of the neighborhood centers, where the classes and programs are

implemented, to submit financial reports monthly.

The board also will pay

more attention to the operation’s daily operations, Rapozo said. “We are going

to be a working board.”

Support for what KSC is attempting to accomplish

came from Kaua’i residents Mino Yoshii and Dorothy Song .

Song complained

the seniors are pawns in a battle between KSC and the county, and that they are

the last to know about the status of their classes and programs.


said the state and county agency should honor its current contract with


Council Vice Chair Bryan Baptiste, and Councilmen Billy Swain and Gary

Hooser said they wanted all sides to sit down to work out a compromise that

will benefit the elderly.

At this point, seniors prefer KSC to maintain

control of the program, Hooser said.

“The seniors I have spoken to so far

have said they would rather have a dysfunctional, private, nonprofit than be

wards of the state,” Hooser said.

If and when the county takes over the

programs, seniors want to play a key role in their formation, Hooser


Yoshioka said it would be disastrous if the county attempted to

improve the programs without the help of the elderly participants.


Council is expected to discuss the issue at its committee meeting next


After the meeting, Ellie Lloyd, who heads the county Office of

Elderly Affairs, said her agency intends to work with KSC during the transition


The county, she said, would take over the management of programs

carried out at the neighborhood centers, and KSC can continue to support or

fund bowling activities, softball or baseball games, outings and employment

training for the elderly.

But Rapozo said KSC can carry all of the services

because it has the experience and manpower.

KSC has been awarded a yearly

contract for the services since 1968. Among the classes offered: Hawaiian

quilts, Japanese dancing, basket weaving, knitting, crafts, Filipino dancing

and computer use.

But the county had a fallout with KSC about six or seven

years, when the quality of services started to dip, Lloyd said.


organization has had management problems, financial difficulties and problems

keeping staff, Lloyd said.

The problems contributed to a downward spiral in

the membership.

The program currently 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, Lloyd has


Because of the problems, Lloyd said an agreement was reached between

her agency and the state agency to award the contract to the county Parks and

Recreation Division, which has a plan that will be modified to implement

programs for the seniors in the future.

At the meeting, Kekaha resident

Jose Bulatao said the Parks and Recreational Division has limited resources and

overworked employees and would have a difficult time, at least initially, in

taking over the programs for seniors.

“What real time can we give to the

transitioning concerns come Oct. 1?”


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