Senior program moves forward

LIHU’E — A Kaua’i County Council committee yesterday approved the temporary

hiring of 23 people to allow the county Office of Elderly Affairs to take over

educational and recreational classes offered to senior residents by Kaua’i

Senior Centers Inc.

The action, the county agency said, will result in no

disruption of services to nearly 850 senior residents currently served by

KSC.

The new employees will provide services during a three-month

transition period, which ends Sept. 30. From that point on, the county’s Parks

and Recreational Division will take over the program.

But the decision by

the Council’s Public Safety and Services/Intergovernmental Relations Committee

didn’t sit well with Kauaians Glenn Mickens and Robert Measel Jr.

Mickens

said the county’s Park and Recreation Division, which would manage the nine

centers where the classes for senior residents are held, is overburdened with

projects and is not equipped to take over another program.

Mickens said it

would be “disastrous” if the county took it over.

The county’s proposal

amounts to “big government taking over, according to Robert Measel Jr.

Moreover, residents will probably be asked to pay higher taxes to cover

the county’s cost to run the program.

The Council’s action came after the

county Office of Elderly Affairs and KSC agreed having the nonprofit

participate in the transition period from July to September would involve

undoing too much red tape.

After informing the federal and state

government agencies of its takeover plans, the county couldn’t reconsider a

request from KSC to participate in the transition work because the process for

the takeover was in place, said Matilda Yoshioka, director of the Offices of

Community Assistance.

“The state didn’t want to go back and ask for a

reversal,” Yoshioka said.

But the nonprofit group, which has held a

yearly contract since 1968 to provide services to senior citizens, still feels

it can do the job, said KSC board President Mel Rapozo.

KSC will work with

the county because “we have to get it done so services to seniors will not be

disrupted,” Rapozo said.

Yoshioka said she wants to work with KSC to

ensure the nonprofit group remains a viable resource for Kaua’i

seniors.

“We don’t want Kaua’i Senior Centers to close up and

fold.”

Council Vice Chair Bryan Baptiste said the county agencies and KSC

have to put aside their differences for the good of the people they serve –

senior citizens.

Councilman Gary Hooser said he understood the reasons for

the county takeover, but he said he would prefer the services remained in the

charge of KSC.

Nonetheless, he said he hoped the transition will result in

improved services.

Under the plan, the county will take over the

management of classes conducted at the neighborhood centers, including Hawaiian

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

and computer use.

KSC, meanwhile, will continue to fund and support

sporting events, outings for seniors, employment training for seniors and

other activities.

During the transition period, seven KSC employees have

agreed to join the county to run the centers, according to Ellie Lloyd, who

heads the county’s Office of Elderly Affairs.

Another 16 instructors will

be hired to hold classes at the centers, Lloyd said.

The salaries of the

23 people will be covered under a $127,000 contract, consisting of federal,

state and county funds.

Over the next three months, Carvalho and his staff

are expected to meet with elderly participants to get their input on what they

want in the way of services.

The Parks and Recreation Division hopes to

have a concrete plan by Oct.1, and plans to submit it to the Council for

review.

Councilman Daryl Kaneshiro said if the county, for unforseen

reasons, is not able to implement the program property, KSC’s expertise and

manpower can be used.

KSC now has a chance to regroup and modify its

operation sufficiently to be in a position to bid again for the contract,

Councilman Randal Valenciano said.

The county Office of Elderly Affairs has

been dissatisfied with KSC services for the past six years, citing concerns

about the KSC problems with funding and retaining staff.

This year, an

agreement was reached between the county agency and the Executive Office on

Aging to award the contract to the Parks and Recreation, which came in second

with a bid for the contract to run the programs.

KSC problems, the county

said, 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 said.

Rapozo has said the

staffing and funding problems cited by the county have been rectified.

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