While noon lunches continue to be served at the Blue Earth Senior Citizen Center, who is in charge of the meals and where those meals come from is changing.
On Tuesday, Dec. 31, Lutheran Social Services served their last meal at the Senior Center. LSS had been renting the center to serve as a senior nutrition meal site, a federally funded program.
Due to funding cutbacks, LSS stopped serving senior meals in Blue Earth as of the end of the year.
But, the city of Blue Earth stepped in and started their own program last Thursday. At least temporarily.
"Right now we are going with home-cooked meals, furnished by the city," says Blue Earth city administrator Kathy Bailey. "We are doing this just to fill in the gap as we develop a new meal program."
The Senior Citizens Center board recently voted to continue serving meals at the center and is taking the proposal to the Blue Earth City Council for their approval of the plan.
That recommendation is on the council's agenda for Monday night's meeting.
"We had two bids for providing meals," Bailey says. "One was from Parker Oaks in Winnebago, which has been furnishing the meals in the past. The other one was from A'viands of Roseville, the company which provides meals for the Faribault County Law Enforcement Center."
Bailey says the bids were close; $3.70 and $3.90 per meal.
"The Senior Center board voted to go with the lower bid from Parker Oaks," Bailey says. "But it will now go to the council for their consideration." "We need to get the meals from Winnebago to Blue Earth each day," Bailey says. "We are working with the RSVP group (Retired Seniors Volunteer Program) to try and find volunteer drivers."
A column elsewhere in this issue of the Faribault County Register outlines the RSVP request.
Bailey says even if they went with the bid from A'viands, there would still be a transportation problem getting the meals from the jail to the center although it would be closer. Plus, an agreement with the County Board would also have to be made, for A'viands to use the jail's kitchen to prepare meals for outside the jail.
Another issue is a big hit to the city's budget. Lutheran Social Services was paying the city $8,400 a year as 'rent' to use the senior center as a senior nutrition meal site.
"That money helped us fund the center," Bailey says. "So we are looking at ways to try and make up that amount in the senior center budget for 2014."
They have three proposed ways to do it. First, the city could use a $2,500 donation from the United Fund and add it to the budget. Second, the city could add $1,700 from the general fund budget. And, third, the hours of the center being open would be cut a half hour each day, opening at 8:30 a.m. instead of 8 a.m.
There is another issue to be faced at the current moment, Bailey says.
"The earliest we could have an agreement in place is Jan. 13," Bailey says. "So we are making home cooked meals ourselves and serving them, in order to fill in the gap."
The Senior Center board's recommendation to the City Council will be to use Parker Oaks at least temporarily, until a firm contract can be worked out.
"There is a commitment to continue with a senior meal program here," Bailey says. "The Senior Center board was all in favor of it, and the council seems to be, too. We just need to make it work."
The are several issues which have to be resolved.
One is transportation.