Senior services safe—for this year

Mono County Supervisors voted Tuesday to backfill a gap in senior services that will allow Inyo County to continue to offer the current level of services to seniors for the remainder of the fiscal year (June 2013).

Mono County will continue to subcontract with Inyo County, which will continue to administer the contract under the state’s direction.

Inyo and Mono counties were operating under a joint agreement to provide senior services, but that agreement broke down last year and now, Inyo County, whose senior population dwarfs Mono’s senior population, administers the entire program.

The two counties have had ongoing disputes over costs, book keeping, and accounting.

“We bought some time,” said Mono County Social Services director Julie Tiede.

The vote came after more than an hour-long discussion by the board and after dozens of letters from seniors were presented, asking Mono County not cut the few senior services it currently has.

Most critical to the seniors was continuing the meals served at the Walker Senior Center and the meals served to individual seniors across the county.

“Sometimes this is the only meal they get a day,” Tiede said.

It will take about $159,000 to backfill the services to meet the current level of services, she said.

The whole thing was especially painful to North County supervisor Tim Hansen and hopeful supervisors-to-be Tim Fesko and Bob Peters, who will face each other in a November runoff election.

“I said before and I’ll say again, if it comes to cutting services to our seniors, or subsidizing air service, I won’t cut our seniors out,” said Hansen. “They’ve been lifelong citizens of this country. They don’t deserve to get cut out of what they have earned.”

Fesko echoed a similar sentiment to Hansen. Peters said he does not believe in pitting air service against senior services and pledged his support for the senior services, even as he has been an advocate for air service support as well.

The supervisors will vote during budget hearings on the backfill specifics. The vote to allow Inyo County to continue to lead the program with Mono County as a subcontractor for the short term was 3-2, with Larry Johnston and Hap Hazard in the minority.

But the problem is just delayed, not solved.

“We will face this again next year,” Tiede said. “It is not going to get better, it is going to get worse.”