Office for the Aging wants new gas range for meals program
BY JEFF CHUDZINSKI
North Country This Week
CANTON — The Office for the Aging is one step closer to purchasing a new gas range for meal preparation.
St. Lawrence County legislators on the Services Committee have agreed to a $12,587 budget modification that will allow the office to purchase the new equipment after the previous range began to break down.According to Andrea Montgomery, director for the Office of the Aging, the Canton Nutrition Center prepares and delivers an average of 2,800 meals to the Canton, DeKalb and Rensselaer Falls areas each month.
But that has proven difficult in recent months as four burners are no longer working. Despite the ovens keeping temperature, Montgomery said the range has become extremely costly to repair and a new range would ensure that the office could prepare all meals for the 125 clients that it serves.
Legislator Larry Denesha questioned the need for the range and remarked upon the cost, saying it “seemed like a lot of money” for the range.
Denesha also inquired whether the range would be gas or electric and if other nutrition centers like the ones in Star Lake or DeKalb could assist in serving clients.
“A lot of companies don’t have 12-burner ranges and this was the cheapest quote we received,” Montgomery said, which is why the county went with a 10-burner range.
“Prices have skyrocketed the last few years. Obviously we don’t want to spend this much money if we don’t have to,” she said.
Montgomery told legislators the cost to repair the range is becoming increasingly more expensive and if receipts from repairs were totaled, it would likely reveal that more money has been spent on repairs than what it would cost to purchase a new range.
Legislators also wondered whether moving a range from DeKalb to Canton would be a viable option, however Montgomery said the quote she received for the necessary trenches, construction and venting to install the stove would far exceed the cost of a new range for the Canton site.
“Within 30 days of buying the DeKalb stove we were having issues. It had a leak and several issues with the range,” she said.
That stove, which she said is a no-name brand, would not be a viable option for Canton.
“The range we’re looking at for Canton is a mid-level commercial range. These are not like what you put in your home, these have multiple ranges so we can prep a number of meals all at once for many clients,” she said.
Another consideration was relocating staff to better serve clients, however issues with the Canton and Lisbon areas have precluded the office from making any such changes.
“It would not fit in the timeframe to deliver per New York State requirements,” Montgomery said.
Meals delivered to clients must be done in specific time frames and specific temperatures must be maintained, she said.
“We wouldn’t be able to serve the outer lying areas if we made those changes,” she said.
Despite the Office for the Aging currently having centers in Brasher, Canton, Gouverneur, Morristown and Potsdam, a wait list of 65-70 potential clients remains, according to Montgomery.
When asked why a wait list exists, Montgomery told legislators it is due to staffing.
The office currently has six temporary staff positions available, “but we’re not getting applications for those positions,” Montgomery said.
Efforts during the COVID pandemic were made to facilitate more meal prep, including closing down the Star Lake and DeKalb sites to consolidate efforts. However a 40% increase in the first week of the pandemic complicated matters.
“Anyone 60 and above could qualify during COVID but it has since reverted back,” Montgomery said.
Despite the change back to pre-pandemic requirements, staffing issues continue to hurt production efforts, necessitating a wait list.
Moving services to Canton allowed the office to add another day of service and allowed the office to serve a wider area, however Montgomery said it is not possible to run an office on just volunteers.
“We have around 100 volunteers every week and 26 home delivery meal reps along with our 18 staff but it’s hard to run a program with just volunteers,” she said.
The resolution passed unanimously and will now move to the full board for final approval.
For more information about the Office of the Aging, call 315-386-4730.