Seniors who formerly attended the Warrensburg community mealsite in the First United Methodist Church share a meal Jan. 25 at the program’s new site at Countryside Adult Home north of Warrensburg on Schroon River Road.
Area senior citizens who wish to share a noontime meal with friends are now doing so in a new location, as the long-anticipated move of the local senior mealsite to Countryside Adult Home has been accomplished.
The Warrensburg mealsite, located for decades downtown in the basement of the First United Methodist Church, moved Jan. 25 to Countryside Adult Home, located two miles north of town on Schroon River Road.
About 10 area seniors from Warrensburg and Thurman shared a meal June 26 in Countryside’s social room, adjacent to their main cafeteria, where their home’s 40 residents were also eating lunch. The seniors and the kitchen staff said the consolidation had worked well in its first two days.
Similar observations were expressed by Christie Sabo, director of the Warren County Office for the Aging, which operates mealsites through the county.
“So, far, so good,” Sabo said. “Participants say they’re pleased with the food and the room — how nice it is, including the view, which includes hummingbirds.”
Seniors said they didn’t mind the move, even though it was now distant from downtown Warrensburg. For the meantime, transportation is being provided by the county. During the first week of the move, mealsite participants were being picked up at their homes in a county van.
County leaders had decided early this year to close down most all of the 12 mealsite kitchens, but soon after decided to retain them due to outcry from seniors and town officials.
The Warrensburg mealsite, however, faced consolidation not only due to potential savings, but because of access problems related to a narrow stairwell in the existing site in the basement of the Methodist church — where rent was nearly $18,000 — and problems with the kitchen facilities, officials said.
Moving the mealsite to Countryside meant potential consolidation of job positions, as both facilities were serving far fewer people than their capacity. Regardless of that fact, the two county-funded kitchen jobs for the mealsite were retained, while one part-time town-sponsored post was cut.
Sabo said the county would reap net annual savings of at least $13,000 in the move to Countryside, and this savings would increase when both programs merge their food orders, rather than place them separately.
Countryside director Deanna Park said that the meals are staggered by about 15 minutes so the home residents can get to their seats conveniently, and so meals — including the 80 or so home-delivered lunches — can flow efficiently from the kitchen.
“It’s a little more hectic, but it’s working out,” she said.
Sabo and Park said there’s a side benefit of consolidation — mealsite participants will now be able to get a first-hand look at the Countryside’s facilities, and perhaps sign up for their new day-care program, which had only one participant as of June 25.
Warrensburg Supervisor Kevin Geraghty, who also serves as the county Budget Officer, said the transition was apparently successful.
“It took longer than we thought, but it’s going okay now,” he said. “It looks like folks are happy with the move — it’s a nice facility.”
Warren County Supervisors, however, are likely to start looking closely at not only the mealsite program, but the long-term viability of Countryside as they attempt to close a $1 million budget gap.
Talks surfaced last year about closing or selling Countryside as well as Westmount nursing home, facilities not mandated by the state. Countryside costs taxpayers more than $500,000 per year to operate.
Westmount’s net annual cost to taxpayers is now about $650,000, a deficit which has been projected to top $6 million annually by 2016 when existing grants dry up.
Geraghty and Sabo said that the more functions that Countryside can serve, the more likely it avoids the fate that so many other similar county-operated facilities have endured across New York State.
“The mealsite move represents a great utilization of Countryside facilities,” Sabo said. “It’s a win-win situation.”