Commission on Aging
September 9, 2020
Share recording with viewers via Zoom: https://us02web.zoom.us/rec/share/IHATyGqBSw6A6Cbt3VK6R1jPVAQPwIKonuEUe-3ILgwo71ln0kA9wPEXL9KA4JQn.qIe_26LMsf_NZ-lP
9:02 am call to order via Zoom Conference
Present: Commission Members: Mary Dale Lancaster, Sarah Atwood, Ingrid Heller, Jean Rexford, George Cohen, Hilda Rhodes, Kathleen Brandt, Randi Hutton, Janet Metzger, Karen de Friesse
Town: Julia Pemberton (First Selectwoman), Alice Smith, Angelica Fontanez, Michelle Stillman
Members of the Public: Sarah Cummings, Cynthia Frei, Lucy Milano (student intern), Morna Crites-Moore
Minutes: Karen de Friesse
1) Approval of July Minutes: Kathy Brandt, Hilda Rhodes
2) Public Comment: None
3) Social Service Director (Angelica Fontanez) report: The Director began her report with noting that the food bank visits were steady but said much of her time this past summer was with home visits and the power outage cases. One case involved a person who is on the verge of being homeless due to eviction and she was trying to arrange housing. As noted in the Director’s report, she worked long hours and some weekends helping the residents cope with the virus and the storm related power failures. She has Dev covering Wednesdays and another intern helping.
The discussion continued with the Director talking about the school supplies and noted that she asked the PTA to deliver gift cards instead of supplies as the disinfecting of items took time.
The Director also noted the impending season is bringing the energy assistance paperwork and with the virus-related home quarantine, getting paperwork has been difficult. The hours worked have been an issue with the town Finance board.
Ms. Lancaster asked about a grant listed on the report and the Director noted that it was automatic but could only be used for the food bank.
4) Senior services (Michele Stillman) report: Michelle Stillman is filling in for the Program Director until the position is filled and she began by noting that attendance was down for some programs. Ms. Stillman was unsure as to the cause, but the virus and the storm certainly have had an impact. With the relaxing of restrictions, the hope is that the classes will be up and running soon. The discussion continued with payments not being received from participants and Ms. Stillman is sending out letters to seniors as a reminder. The Chairman brought up the need for internet-based payment service and Ms. Stillman said she has had discussions with Rob Blick, Park and Recreation director.
The discussion continued regarding filling the vacant Senior Program Coordinator position, how to advertise, whether full time or part time and when to fill the position. Ms. Fontanez is hoping to expand the position to include grant writing to free up the social services personnel.
Ms. Lancaster brought up the issue of the town van and wondered how seniors were coping without the use of the Van. Ms. Stillman said she noted that most seniors have found other means of transport, but she has recommended Visiting Angels out of Danbury.
5) First Selectman, Julia Pemberton: Questions for the First Selectman centered around when the Heritage Center, Community Center and van would be up and running. The Selectman noted at this point there was no definitive date and the debate continues in Hartford. If the state maintains a relative low infection rate, there is a possibility of an October opening or at least a scaled version.
Ms. Pemberton addressed the program payments and stated seniors knew they needed to pay. The Selectman felt the staff should be more aggressive in pursuing payments. Ms. Fontanez brought up various online payment methods, but they all came with fees that needed to be looked at. Ms. Lancaster said she would address the issue with the Selectman and the town Finance Director.
The First Selectman continued with the news that Shawn Donnelly had been hired to oversee building maintenance. Mr. Donnelly is assessing the town buildings’ conditions and will offer a plan going forward. Ms. Pemberton would also like to hire a Grounds Manager to assist Mr. Donnelly. Ms. Lancaster was happy the Commission had a part in the maintenance issue and wondered if a private entrance for Ms. Fontanez’ office was a future possibility. Ms. Pemberton said some major repair issues were looming but that the door would be on the list.
6) Chair report, Mary Dale Lancaster: Ms. Lancaster started by offering kudos to long time Commission member, Janet Metzger, and thanked her on behalf of the Commission for her 35 years of service. Janet gave a brief farewell speech and Commission members offered heartfelt comments.
Ms. Lancaster introduced a new candidate, Sarah Cummings, and the Commission voted unanimously to recommend her for the First Selectman’s approval. A second candidate, Cynthia Frei was present and currently deciding whether to join.
Ms. Lancaster continued her report and asked the First Selectman if a stenographer for the commission was being advertised and Ms. Pemberton said they would get together and come up with an ad.
Ms. Lancaster recapped initiatives from the 2019/2020 session including maintenance, dog signs and better communications via the Heritage Center email blast. Next year’s agenda to include getting the billing issues resolved. Ms. Lancaster brought up the Medicare and Medicare Advantage programs with Sarah Atwood announcing a program at the Mark Twain Library on October 7, 4-5:30 explaining the programs. Jean Rexford brought up the challenges seniors are facing with isolation and transportation.
7) Presentation on Voting procedures, Cole Tucker-Walton: Mr. Tucker-Walton of the League of Women Voters, detailed the procedures currently available due to the pandemic. He explained how to request and how to fill out the absentee ballot, stressing using the ballot box at Town Hall and voting early. He has some handouts he will pass on to the commission. He also recommended the upcoming LWVs virtual presentation on the state candidates to be held October 14, 7 pm. Ms. Lancaster finished the meeting by recapping the voting procedures.
Meeting adjourned at 10:21 am. Next meeting will be held on October 14, 2020.
Karen de Friesse