Every Wednesday, between half a dozen senior citizens in Star Valley board a van and head to Payson for doctors’ appointments, groceries, lunch with friends and even to get their hair done.
Without the senior center van, many would be forced to take a taxi or worse, not get out at all, said Joanne Conlin, director of the Payson Senior Center.
“People who ride tend to be the elderly or the disabled who cannot otherwise get to town,” she said. “It is extremely important for them to socialize, go to the doctor and get out of their homes. When isolated they can start a rapid decline.”
On Tuesday, the Star Valley Town Council voted to support the senior ridership program by spending $6,500 to keep the program running for the next 10 months.
The program was originally funded by the state, which distributed lottery proceeds through local transportation assistance funds (LTAF). During the last legislative session, however, these funds were permanently repealed, putting Star Valley’s program in jeopardy of shutting down.
Currently, as many as 21 seniors ride on Wednesday from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Last week, during stops for nine riders, 169 miles were put on the van in one day.
It costs the Payson Senior Center roughly $1 per mile plus $10 an hour for a driver to run the program, with an average cost per month of $650. Users are asked to pay a $10 registration fee, which allows them to ride free for a year.
“Our current funding will support the program through August 2010,” Conlin said. “We want to keep the seniors and disabled healthy and give them support both physically and mentally.”
With the town council’s approval Tuesday, the program will run through June of 2011.
To sign up for the program, visit the Star Valley Town Hall or call (928) 472-7752.
Meals on Wheels
Seniors in Star Valley not only rely on the Payson Senior Center for transportation, but a growing number depend on meals delivered daily.
Several months ago, the Senior Center began delivering meals daily to 10 residents who qualified for assistance under federal and state guidelines.
The program is now up to 14 residents, running the center $21,000 a year, for Star Valley alone.
On Tuesday, Conlin gave the council an overview of the program, asking the town to consider a donation.
“For many residents, this is probably the only real meal they get a day,” she said.
Additionally, this is the only time some have contact with an outside person, a driver, who makes it a point to stop and talk to each resident along his or her route.
One time, a driver discovered a woman lying on her floor motionless. He called for help and the woman was driven to the hospital. If he had not been there, who knows what could have happened, Conlin said.
Another woman wrote Conlin saying “I cant tell you what the meals mean to me. I don’t know if I could manage without them.”
“This happens a lot,” Conlin said. “They get sad and isolated and are normally in a lot of pain.”
These meals offer comfort and assurance.
Although the council could not act on the agenda item, council members told Conlin to meet with Town Manager/Attorney Tim Grier to discuss a donation.
Other council news
• The town hall will soon have a new color copier. The council authorized Town Clerk Stephanie Jones to buy a Sharp digital copier for $8,390.
The new machine will allow town staff to scan documents and upload them on the Internet and print brochures and reports.
“The benefits of copying color documents in-house include: a more efficient and productive use of staff time, eliminating the cost of outsourcing and reducing the gas and wear/tear on town vehicles from traveling to and from the vendor,” Jones said.
Last year, the town spent $1,230 on color copies and drove on average two to three times a month to Payson to pick up print jobs.
Councilor Vern Leis voted in favor of the printer saying he wanted the staff to have the best possible equipment available.
• The council approved building a box culvert at the Valley Road crossing at a cost of $125,000. A Community Development Block Grant will cover the cost of the project.
Although the crossing should allow residents passage during flooding, it will not mitigate flooding upstream or downstream, a problem the council is wrestling with.
“We can’t solve the basic problem, which we are tying to solve,” Leis said. “It is not a fix all.”
Since the land upstream and downstream is private property, the town cannot touch it, unless it takes the land by eminent domain.
“I still think it is a worthwhile project,” Leis said.
“It will solve part of the flooding problem,” said Councilor George Binney.
“The only way to solve it (permanently) is with detention basins.”