HIGH SPRINGS – The ElderCare program in High Springs was the main issue on many people’s minds at the May 23, 2013, commission meeting. Although it was not on the agenda, the Citizens Comments section of the agenda opened the door to criticism of the City’s treatment of its elder citizens.

At issue is notification that the Civic Center will not be available to ElderCare on a specific date because the City has rented the facility to another organization. Although City Manager Ed Booth has says he will most definitely allow the seniors to meet at the Community Center, comments by some speakers indicate it is a great inconvenience to the elderly to have to move every time the City rents the facility. Instead, Jan Levitt said she would like to see the City provide “the Ginny Springs Room 100 percent of the time” to the seniors. The Ginny Springs room is located in the Community Center.

Earlier this year, City Manager Ed Booth looked into the cost of having an oven, hood, refrigerator and double sink installed in the Community Center to accommodate ElderCare Program’s requirements to provide hot meals to seniors.

Funds to make the required remodeling changes were not available at that time and had not been budgeted. Booth indicated the commission would consider those expenditures as part of the budget process for the next fiscal year. Budget changes for the next year are scheduled to begin shortly.

ElderCare, which had been operating without an agreement with the City since June 17, 2012, expressed concern that there was no written agreement to allow ElderCare to continue operating at the Civic Center. They said they wanted to secure an agreement as soon as possible and notified the City its preference to continue the program at the Civic Center.

On May 9, 2013, commissioners approved a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with ElderCare of Alachua County, Inc. to continue to use the Civic Center to serve the hot meals and provide a place to socialize for senior citizens. The effective date of that agreement is May 1, 2013.

The agreement has a stipulation that it can be modified at any time during the two-year agreement period, which could allow the seniors to permanently move into the Community Center should the commission decide to fund the remodel and build a kitchen for ElderCare’s use.

As part of the MOU, the city agreed to continue to allow ElderCare the use of the Civic Center for the seniors program at no charge, but continued to reserve its right to rent the building to others.

While the City’s Deputy Attorney Sondra Randon stated at an earlier meeting that she had spoken directly with ElderCare representatives and had submitted the agreement for review and changes by ElderCare prior to presenting it to the commission for approval, some people believe the agreement was made incorrectly.

Commissioner Bob Barnas invited ElderCare Manager of Program Operations Jeff Lee and Director Anthony M. Clarizio to the next commission meeting to “get the matter settled.” He also said he would like to see the city “stop displacing the seniors,” and asked the city manager to put the item on the next agenda. Meanwhile, he would like the City not to rent the facility.

Under the MOU, the ElderCare Program has the right to use the facility from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. weekdays, but meal preparers are able to access the Civic Center kitchen in enough time to prepare the meals prior to 11 a.m. If the City decides not to rent the facility to others, the building would sit vacant and unused except for those hours.

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