COMMISSION ON AGING MEETING
JULY 14, 2021
Present: Mary Dale Lancaster, Ingrid Heller, Garner Lester, George Cohen, Kathy Brandt, Sarah Atwood, Ruth Moran, Randi Hutton
Julia Pemberton (First Select-person).
Members of Public: Cynthia Johnson, from Meadow Ridge; Doug Renfield Miller
First Selectperson: Julia Pemberton
Staff: Angelica Fontanez, Michelle Stillman
Call to Order 9:07 am
1. June Minutes Approved: Ingrid Heller, Sarah Atwood approved.
2. Special Notice: Sarah Atwood’s is serving her last day as VP at the July meeting. New VP tbd.
3. Public Comment: There are nonprofits to help seniors with technology; Doug R. Miller has links on his website for seniors to find these entities. Cynthia from Meadow Ridge shared opening up post-COVID, open for tours, program 10 am tomorrow with Will Haskell & Ann Hughes, re: needs for seniors.
4. Director of Social Services– Angelica Fontanez: Quiet w/Food bank, a few wellness visits; van grant for new van she will begin working on it. Have to post a legal notice for it. Good year for this grant. Jean & Kathy will help. 37 van trips in June. Majority of trips this month are shopping and personal. Budget still being worked on. Had to purchase some things by the end of the month, that will still need updated. Eggs: Warrups farm and another family farm have extra eggs that are donated to food pantry. Elderly Protective Services: only one case at the moment. Is there a plan for lunches and food services and using the kitchen? Ridgefield Meals on Wheels said they get free meals on wheels for a whole year? Willing to allocate some of the funds to Angelica. Local farms and restaurant might get involved? Low cost for seniors? Need to get answers from Steve about financing for CW Resources. We will put “food” near the top of things to work on for the fall.
5. Senior Activity Program Coodinator – Margherita Pilato: Michelle Stillman standing in for Margherita: we are exceeding the income vs. instructor 50% requirement. Attendance is going up. Pizza truck sponsored by Meadow Ridge, great success. Tag sale June 18 was great community event. Able to get 2 grants approved, 2500$ for hand sanitizers, masks, and for also some $ for Tai chi balance class. These go to reimburse the town. Boat cruise 8/5. Jean Schroeder will be back with Opera talks on 8/10. New patio furniture and ballet bar installed in gym. Mirrors are ready for installation.
6. First Selectperson – Julia Pemberton: Needs to know what kind of laptops are needed for classes and how many are needed. Plan to use ARPA funds for those, though interim rules only have been issued, we don’t know what qualifies for what. Can use funding to offset loss in revenue, programs budgeted for and not run count as lost revenue. Would like to establish a committee of individuals, commission chairs, to decide how to use these funds throughout the community. HVAC in this building may be one of the uses for funds. Want to use for one-time expenditures that have a lasting impact on community. 200K grant for Georgetown was granted, that will be for assessment of Georgetown development. Hope to have engineering firm starting by end of August. Phase 1 is gathering of all environmental studies. Then, second phase will be additional environmental work. Then have to begin planning stage. Can apply for additional grants when we get to that part. Church is on hold for now. Grange building on Newtown on market for 250K. Interest in maintaining it as a grange/nonprofit. Follow up from last meeting: architect plans for Heritage space: capital project, should use ARPA funding. It appears that more after school programs will have to be here, instead of at the school, limiting our space use even more than previously. Health issues of sharing space with children and seniors. May need additional cleaning issues to address that in the interim. May need to have computers that are separate from those used by the children. These space issues were communicated to Julia only yesterday. Need to document overlap of schedules for children using our space and our need to use space, seriousness of overlap, need to have conversation now. Renovation and/or expansion of center will also need this information.
Have lost 2 stellar school administrators in space of a few weeks. Very unfortunate interactions with some groups led to the resignation of our school superintendent Dr. Harrison. Clarence Zachary, director of finance and operations, has resigned, though he remains here for the interim to handle audits.
7. Program committee: Hilda Rhodes sent a report: Library room at the Heritage Center is in process of being converted into the lounge. Removed old book cases, piano will be gone, will be a comfortable room for lounging. Jinny Cohen, and retired interior decorator, has done a lot of work. May need donations to recover sofa. Will take six months to a year to complete. May need a sign that says “lounge.” Randi suggested a cafe in this building. But no details have been parsed out.
Discussion of “Aging Happens”. Lester mentions that we could try to time these after other programs, so people are already here, speakers could come in. Key is to get the right facilitator. Randi Hutton volunteered to help us work out this program so we can get it started. The space issues are going to limit the programs we need to have this fall. Seniors cannot come first thing in the morning. They need to be able to come in the afternoon, when we are forced out of the building. Balance class is very well attended. Fall prevention is a huge issue for the elderly. ARPA (American Rescue Plan) funding may help with getting a full time programming director; in any event, the COA strongly supports a full time programming director.
Church Fair: Congregational Church 9/29, we will have a table and a presence. Will need volunteers to show off what we are doing. Lesters live near there, offers to allow some usage of his driveway for volunteers who need it, also a restroom, if he is in town. Garden club also has a table. Maybe we should have a handout to attract folks.
8. Chairperson – Mary Dale Lancaster: Conclusions from member surveys: a. We need be supportive of staff. They do the work and have the expertise. They do not answer to us. Compliment staff on good work they do, we are not their bosses: b. Need very comfortable place for seniors to meet where they can hang out at any time, not restricted by having kids taking over the space: c. Communications, we are trying very hard to get the word out. We have the Blast, maybe the Danbury News times? If we could get a monthly calendar in there too, that would be helpful. We are working on our website. Working together with Meadow Ridge is very helpful. Cynthia said they will try to work with Margherita when there are events we can share. They might be able to, say, donate desserts for events. Sign for tag sale was helpful maybe we need a sign out on Lonetown Road for special events. Maybe quilters could make a sign. Need a sign that says “come to the lounge.” Need to put out signs for every special event. Social media is more for younger families, but old folks might need signs. So, we are trying to work with library, other town organizations, Meadow Ridge. Also, would like to build a glass atrium – a true wish list item. d. We should re-do our mission statement. Everyone on the committee should feel important and has a role in which they are comfortable.
9. New Business: August is a month off for the COA. Next meeting in September. We need to recruit a new member. Not sure if we have to recruit a particular party. Karen de Friesse has now resigned and was officially thanked for her years of dedicated service.
10. Old Business: Sun shades for the patio. Some issues, but we have 2 umbrellas, tent, still working on it.
11. Motion to Adjourn: Meeting ended at 10:30a.m.\
Submitted by: Kathy Brandt