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Battling the budget crunch

Senior Advocates seek city funding for Old Gold Diner site manager

SOLON– Without senior dining, there’s no way to reach older residents of the community with needed programs.
The Old Gold Diner is the hub of the senior community.
When budget cuts forced the elimination of the site manager position and the introduction of packaged plastic meals, local supporters began rallying the troops.
As a result, representatives of Solon Senior Advocates met with Solon City Council members last week, seeking city funds to match county money for the site manager position.
“If we don’t have the senior dining, we don’t have the senior program, because this is our senior center,” said Advocates board member Larry Meister.
The Advocates group works closely with the Old Gold Diner’s site council, providing services, education, entertainment and other recreational opportunities for Solon’s senior population.
Back in October, Elder Services Inc. of Iowa City announced an immediate 20 percent cut in funding for a seven-county area.
The Heritage Agency, which funnels funds from the Older Americans Act to regional non-profits like Elder Services, cut about 12,000 meals from Johnson County’s senior dining sites, from 72,000 in the previous year to 60,000.
The site manager position, funded through Elder Services, fell victim to the budget ax.
And without a site manager, the Old Gold Diner was forced to serve meals in pre-portioned, packaged plastic containers, similar to microwaveable frozen meals, known as the “Oliver” system.
“Which aren’t very inviting,” Advocates president Sandy Hanson told council members. “We are going to lose seniors if we serve them TV dinners.”
The solution?
Solon Senior Advocates is seeking $2,500 from the city to match funds pledged by county supervisors which, when pooled with Elder Services money, would fund the site manager. The county funds are contingent upon the city’s participation, Meister said, and would be a recurring budget item.
“They (the Johnson County supervisors) know the wonderful things that the Senior Advocates have accomplished with the seniors in Solon,” Meister said at last Wednesday’s meeting. “They wish more communities in the Johnson County area would do some of the things that we’ve been successful with.”
The Advocates oversee a variety of activities for seniors, including a schedule of van trips to regional tourism destinations, and the Meal and a Movie program at the Solon Public Library. The Advocates have also developed once-a-month sponsored meals at the Old Gold Diner.
If both the city and county agree to the request, the site manager position would be funded for three hours a day Monday through Friday.
“The council has traditionally strongly supported the senior advocates and their efforts in the community,” Mayor Cami Rasmussen commented. “We are a fortunate community to have what we have in our senior dining program and our senior advocates program.”
Although Rasmussen indicated the city was still in the process of putting the budget together, council member Brad Kunkel was ready to put an official stamp on the support.
“I’m just happy for what you guys do,” Kunkel said. “We’re all proud to have this service.” Kunkel made a motion to approve the $2,500 in city financing, seconded by council member Jessie Ehlinger, but the motion was withdrawn because no possible action had been listed on the meeting’s agenda.