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It takes a village to raise a movement


CHATHAM–Carol Hegeman, the town’s representative to the county’s Office for the Aging, reported to the Town Board last week about the village movement, which aims to enable seniors to stay in their own homes and communities as they age.

She told the board that only six people came to a meeting June 5 at the North Chatham library to start a discussion on developing a village movement program in the town. Ms. Hegeman called the low turnout for the initial meeting “quite discouraging.” She said more people would be needed to start a local program.

There are 55 Village Movement programs under development around the state, including one in Rhinebeck in Dutchess County. Ms. Hegeman described the movement as “a geographically defined, self-governed, grassroots, volunteer-based organization” that helps seniors stay in their homes.

She told the board at the June 15 town meeting that the group plans to meet again and will start looking into some important questions, like whether or not there are enough local volunteers to work on the steering committee. She also said they would look into the geographic scope of the effort–with possibly all of Northern Columbia County being part of the program with a “hub” in Chatham. She stressed that looking at how the program works in other rural communities would be important.

Ms. Hegeman said that that it takes a seven-year planning process to get a local movement started. She and co-planner Karen McGraw have created a PowerPoint presentation on the movement. She also said there is helpful information at www.vtvnetwork.org.

“To me the biggest issue is that we’re rural,” said Councilwoman Landra Haber, who had attended the meeting in North Chatham.

Ms. Hegeman said another issue for rural seniors is a shortage of home health aides, who are not reimbursed for their mileage. She said it’s hard for aides to see several seniors in one day in rural areas, in contrast to a city like Hudson, where people live close together.

She also reported on the current programs for seniors throughout the county, which include coupons for low-income seniors to buy discounted food at most local farmers’ markets and free van rides for non-medical reasons. She said that seniors can call 518 828-4258 for more information on those programs.

The county Department of Social Services is hosting free sessions on enrolling in Medicare starting this month. Information is available at 518 828-9411.

The Town Board’s June 15 meeting also included a long discussion about compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) at the Tracy Memorial Village Hall. The town rents the top floor of the Tracy from the Village of Chatham for the Town Court and offices for the court clerk and judges. The village has asked for three-year lease agreement and an increase in the rent from $1,500 to $1,650, according to Supervisor Maria Lull. She said she and Town Justice James Borgia-Forster met with Village Mayor Tom Curran and Village Justice Walt Simonsmeier to talk about the lease. The supervisor said she had asked when the village would make the needed updates so that the building complies with the ADA, “and they really couldn’t say.”

“I’m really concerned,” said Councilman Henry Swartz. “We’re just sinking $1,500 a month rent that we see no return on,” Mr. Swartz said, adding, “They just can’t afford to do what needs to be done.”

The village is moving forward with designs for a new roof on the historic building. Village officials also received bids for a lift several months ago for the building but there was the issue about whether or not that would bring them into compliance with the ADA.

Councilman Bob Balcom said of the Village Board, “They are trying to get the money.” He said that making changes to the building really wasn’t something the town could do. “We’re just the lessee.”

Ms. Haber pointed out that the town cannot just move the court from that space. The town would need to find a large enough room to hold the court and there are court computer systems set up at the Village Hall now.

The town attorney said he would talk to the state Office of Court Administration to see what recourse the town has.

Also at the June 15 meeting:

• The town approved a Park Day fundraiser for the Recreation Committee at Crellin Park from noon to 5 p.m. August 12. The board also discussed signup for camps. Councilman Swartz wanted to know how many children are turned away from the camp, since there are only 100 slots available, and what it would cost the town to add the extra staff to create room for more children

• The KISS document shredding program provided by the County Clerk’s Office and available to local seniors, is again at the Town Hall. Locked bins will in the lobby for the next three weeks and local seniors can drop off sensitive paperwork to be shredded at no charge to the seniors

• The board approved making the New York Rural Water Association’s report on the town-wide Water Protection Plan part of the town’s Comprehensive Plan. Councilman Balcom said that the final draft of the updated plan should be ready for the whole board to review in July.

The next regular board meeting will July 20 at 6 p.m.

To contact reporter Emilia Teasdale email eteasdale@columbiapaper.com

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