Update on Senior Center: Response of Citizens to City Councilors

Below is Sue Wilson’s response to Councilor Darrow’s comments.  You can pick up the jest of the comments from this email below.  Used with permission.

If you want the full text of Darrow’s comments you need to ask her for those.

Dear Ms. Darrow,

I greatly appreciate your consideration of my comments and specific feedback. There is one statement (below) made that I feel needs response.

Individual councilors cannot override or become involved in personnel decisions made.  Whether I agree with them or not makes no impact.

My recent research finds that framing the senior center staff layoff as “personnel decisions” is incorrect. It appears to be an action (whether intentional or not) to strip critical social services/safety net from Senior Center/Program services.
I found that the social service processes performed by the senior center staff are not documented. A new senior center staff member must be trained by an experienced staff member to be able to help seniors … even for someone with past senior case management experience, it can take a long time. There is also a web of people experienced in helping seniors that assist the senior center staff when necessary and act as an advisory committee. These resources/skills/contacts have been built up for 40+ years and require constant maintenance.
In the past, attempts were made to document community senior services resources, contacts, advocacy professionals, etc.; however, it changed so often that it was not effective (also, too complex and wide ranging), and not feasible due to staff and budget constraints. There was never a concern that the services would be eliminated which would warrant such documentation.
Now when Mike Gardiner and Michael Black talk about the senior center programs, they list the recreation and activities and only reference the utility aid program as a social service which will remain. Since the other social services (information referral, service referrals, coordination of services, advocacy, etc.) have not been documented, they are ignored. In fact, Mike Gardiner stated on Channel 10 after the Aug. 9th meeting that Parks and Recreation is not a social service agency … that the city and county have those services.
Thus, by laying off all current senior center staff, Parks and Recreation is eliminating the social service coordination aspect of the senior center except for the utility aid program. New employees will not have experienced staff to train them; they will not know the difference nor have the skills, knowledge and experience to provide such services.
As such, it is not a personnel issue; the issue is the removal of the most critical services that the senior center provides to our most vulnerable citizens and their families.
Thank you for listening.
Sue Wilson
Ashland Citizen

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