County council gives pre-budget approval of $5,000 in support of L&A SOS activity centre

Lennox and Addington County Seniors Outreach Services executive director Wendy McDonald makes her case Wednesday for the County to support her organization's programming in 2018. (Adam Bramburger/Staff)

Lowry suggests council develop grants policy

Adam Bramburger

Beaver Staff

County council gave pre-budget approval in the amount of $5,000 Wednesday evening to help Lennox and Addington Seniors Outreach Services (L&A SOS) get the maximum government funding for its 55 Plus Activity Centre.

During a working session meeting where L&A SOS executive director Wendy McDonald gave an overview on the organization’s services and requested $20,000 support in the 2018 budget, it was actually correspondence from the Town of Greater Napanee that encouraged councillors to make the recommendation.

McDonald explained the new Seniors Active Living Centres Act, passed in 2017, changed funding allocations for seniors centres. L&A SOS has been operating its 55 Plus Activity Centre since 2010. The result of a successful Ontario Trillium Foundation grant and sustained by several other funding agencies, the program allows members to socialize, take part in recreational activity, and come in contact with community supports. Currently, there are 479 seniors using the service with 376 coming from Greater Napanee.

Under the new legislation, McDonald said the centre is not one of the programs receiving funding from the Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care. There is, however, an opportunity under the new Ministry of Seniors Affairs to be named one of 40 new Seniors Active Living Centres alongside the existing 263 now-renamed Elderly Persons Centres across the province.

Being one of the successful new additions would be a windfall for L&A SOS.

“We have been waiting for this application to open since 2009,” McDonald said. “What we can get from that is $42,700 in base funding, which will help sustain programs we’re currently offering and reach out to do more programs in more areas.”

The funding envelope came with a catch, however. Applicants were required to receive commitments for a minimum of 20 per cent of net annual costs from their municipalities. L&A SOS based its proposal on a $100,000 budget. That figure includes $42,000 for a co-ordinator, $16,000 for paid instructors, $4,000 for training, $17,500 for professional memberships and conferences, $5,000 for equipment and supplies, and $20,500 for facility costs.

At Greater Napanee’s Dec. 19 meeting, town council supported a $15,000 in-kind grant of space at the North Fredericksburgh Town Hall for operations. Given that close to 25 per cent of the 55 Plus Activity Centre usage is from outside of Napanee, it also resolved to request a financial contribution from the County for the remaining $5,000.

Greater Napanee councillor Marg Isbester reminded her colleagues that L&A SOS is up against a Jan. 19 deadline to make application for the new funding and said she was hopeful with the program located at the county seat they’d support it.

Fellow Greater Napanee representative Gord Schermerhorn agreed and moved to go forward with an allocation.

“They need municipal support to get this program up and running and get support from the province and the LHIN, so that’s why we did it. We think it’s going to cost us around $15,000,” he said. “We’re hoping we can get the County to help us out in that respect. If you want to refer it to budget, I’m happy to go along, but I think we should have a commitment as soon as possible.”

Chief administrative officer Brenda Orchard told council to facilitate that request, they could approve the $5,000 in advance of considering L&A SOS’s larger grant request of $20,000 that McDonald laid out in her deputation.

Councillors agreed.

Schermerhorn, who has sat as a municipal representative on the L&A SOS board, said he was frustrated with the province’s approach.

“They started this 55 Plus activity up a number of years ago, funded it for a while, and all of a sudden, it’s altogether different base funding. Remember, the SOS cannot save money. They only get X number of dollars and if it’s not spent, they don’t get it next year,” he said, adding the organization must constantly rely on fundraising.

“Sitting on the board of SOS really opened my eyes up. A lot of senior citizens use it to get income tax done. If you need a ride to the hospital or the eye clinic, call the SOS. They do a great service,” he said. “I know 75 per cent of people (for this program) are from the Town of Napanee… Most are from Napanee, but 25 per cent are from other parts of the county. I don’t think we’re spending our money unwisely for supporting this $5,000 for this 55 Plus idea.”

McDonald indicated the L&A SOS budget request for 2018 includes subsidies for some of its fee-for-service programs. The funding may help with an in-home respite service using personal support workers, an adult day program, an overnight respite service at an L&A SOS facility, and the social diners program — which was recently extended to Moscow and was well received. Some transportation to connect seniors to those programs would also continue to be funded. Participation numbers for all those programs are crucial over the next year as the South East Local Health Integration Network is working on funding model allocations for 2019.

She added L&A SOS is always looking for partnerships that would help it stretch its budget farther to reach more seniors across a broad geographic area.

Councillors referred that request to budget proceedings, but not before Warden Bill Lowry expressed concern about the County’s role in granting.

“I have some concerns as to the County and how far we’re getting into grants and getting into recreation and support facilities and programs. We in municipalities are approached by numbers and numbers of groups and we try to sort it out,” he said. “I think we need to come up with a grant policy as far as what we’re going to do and it’s going to be no different for one group versus the other group as far as grant criteria. Every year, it becomes more difficult to make a judgment call and be fair.”

Lowry also said he has been noticing there’s an expectation from a lot of organizations to receive grants “year after year after year” and he wasn’t sure the County should be operating that way.

Orchard said staff had some ideas on a possible granting framework that could come before council at a later date.

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