HANSON — Residents in Town Meeting Monday, May 2 voted to fund an outreach director for the Senior Center as well as approving a meals tax. A portion of those proceeds, it was argued could be used to fund the Senior Center position.
The Finance Committee voted against recommending it. FinCom Chairman Kevin Sullivan noted they had not recommended any article that was aimed at adding personnel due to the town’s tenuous fiscal position.
But Select Board liaison to the Senior Center Jim Hickey and Council on Aging Director Mary Collins both argued it is a labor-intensive process that robs her of time to do other important work.
Select Board member Jim Hickey reiterated that 41 percent of Hanson residents are over age 55, with 40 percent of those over age 60. He said the SHINE program that helps people with Medicare paperwork takes about an hour per person. Collins helped 100 people with the paperwork last year.
Overall, Collins said the SHINE program saved Hanson residents more than $33,000 last year during the open enrollment period for Medicare.
“There are services that are available to people to help them remain in their homes successfully as they age,” she said. “Many people are unaware of those services. If I don’t have someone to help with that outreach, the outreach relies solely on me. This is a need that is going unmet.”
Residents Joseph O’Sullivan, Judy Caldas and Janine Foster offered their personal examples of the need for services the Senior Center offered.
Caldas, is the outreach worker, social services coordinator and SHINE counselor at the Marshfield COA, said she is a full-time employee in her role and has the help of a part-time assistant. Collins sought a 19-hoour per week part-time position with no benefits.
“I don’t know how [Collins] could do this,” Caldas said. “I saw over 300 people in that seven weeks of open enrollment. I have four other SHINE counselors working with me that saw another 300 people.” She said they also assist younger people with fuel assistance, housing for the disabled or food stamp programs.
Veterans Agent Timothy White added that Collins’ position is vital to helping the town’s older veterans and surviving spouses, as well.
“We’re talking about $21,736, that’s at the top-end of the scale of 19 hours times $22/hour for a 52-week year,” resident Lance Benjamino said. “If you look down at the next article, you’re talking about a .75-percent meals tax.” He asked what that would bring in.
“That would be about sixty grand ($60,000), sir,” Hickey said.
A second attempt in as many years to adopt a meals tax was successful without discussion, as opposed to the vigorous debate that preceded it’s defeat last year.