Commissioners ponder future funding

LISBON – County commissioners appointed an interim director at the Area Office on Aging in Salem while they contemplate how much future funding the county should provide the agency.

Julie Davis, who serves as the office’s part-time nurse, was named at this week’s meeting to replace Sharon Kenst-Hawkins on an interim basis. Kenst-Hawkins resigned as of Sept. 30.

Davis, who was earning $17 an hour on a part-time basis, will be paid $25 an hour while serving as interim director but will not receive full-time benefits, said Commissioner Tim Weigle.

“She’s a great person, and I think she’ll do a wonderful job,” he said of Davis.

After the meeting, Weigle said he wants to get with Joe Rossi, director of the Office on Aging’s district office in Niles to discuss the county’s future role in continuing to help fund the Salem office.

The federal program was once funded with a combination of federal and local dollars, but the allocation has been cut over time. According to a story last October, the Salem office was expected to see its federal funding reduced from $37,600 to $6,500 this year, with the only other source of revenue being whatever commissioners can provide.

The Area Office on Aging said it needed $24,000 from commissioners in 2013 and was provided $39,000.

“I met before with Joe about Columbiana County’s role, and he wanted us to put on a levy to support them,” Weigle said, adding that is not something commissioners will consider.

Weigle said he has spent a considerable amount of time at the Salem office, which primarily provides adult day care services for people who need a break from looking after relatives or friends with dementia or Alzheimer’s disease. The office only serves about five people on average per day from what Weigle observed, and he wonders if there is a more cost-efficient way to provide the service through another agency.

Commissioner Mike Halleck said these Offices on Aging were created at a time (1965) when there was not much in the way of services for senior citizens, but today there are plenty of programs available through numerous other organizations.

In other action at this week’s meeting, commissioners agreed to provide the county prosecutor’s office with an additional $135,000 to help it get through the year. The prosecutor’s office requested $1.9 million for 2013 and was appropriated $1.6 million by commissioners.

The additional funding will come from what remains of the unappropriated portion of the county’s carry-over budget from 2012, which at once time stood at $1.4 million.

Commissioners also appropriated another $20,000 to cover maintenance costs at the new county government services building.