Area senior citizens crowd into commission chambers

TV Hagenah

Senior citizens from throughout Quay County crowded into the county commission chambers Thursday morning to hear what County commissioners had to say about staying on as the entity in charge of the county’s senior centers.

The standing-room-only crowd heard commissioners explain that many things were not as they would like them if they were to maintain administrative control of the centers.
Commissioner Franklin McCasland explained that among other things the centers have proved to have a high turn-over rate among employees, low pay of employees, a lack of financial commitment by members and have been very time consuming for county employees.

McCasland said that cooks have been paid $5.50 an hour and the director has been paid $6.50 per hour and thus it was no wonder that there was so much turn over among the staff when pay at the centers was so low.

“They need more money,” said McCasland. “It hurts me to see how little these people are making.”

McCasland said the House center was covering 63 percent of their upkeep costs and Logan was covering 65 percent while Tucumcari was only covering 33 percent.
“This can’t continue,” said McCasland. “If the county is going to continue with this program, it must be self-sufficient.”

According to county manager Paula Chacon, she felt especially bad about the situation because she had “talked them (county commissioners)” into taking over the administration of the centers by assuring the three commissioners that it would not be the “headache” it has become.

All the commissioners said that only in the handful of months that the county has administered the centers, they have become something of a drag on the county both financially and labor wise.

“I agree with Commissioner McCasland on this,” said Commissioner Jeff Lewalling. “We only have X amount of dollars. I personally want to see these sites continue , but I want to see them self-sufficient too. We have other things in county government.”

According to Lewalling $134,000 of county money has already been channeled to the sites and while most of that should be recouped it was not at this point guaranteed.
McCasland pointed out that at this time the centers are $73,000 “in the hole.”

Rick Johnson of Pioneer Senior Citizens Center in Tucumcari said he realized that there were problems but felt it was improving.

Commissioner Grace Madrid said she too was not happy with the over situation but admitted there were encouraging signs.

“I know the programs are going more smoothly at all three sites,” said Madrid.

“I believe at this point we are doing better,” said Johnson and asked the county to maintain administration of the program for six more months to see if there were an improvement.

Mary Mayfield who is also involved with the program also urged the county to hold on for another six months before deciding.

“It’s been a big learning curve,” said Mayfield about putting the centers on a solid footing.”

“It has indeed,” said Lewalling.