MOUNT VERNON — As of May 1, all homemaker and chores domestic assistance programs offered by The Station Break senior citizens center will be outsourced, according to director Kelly Lybarger-DeWitt and assistant director Bob McIlvain. The two met Thursday with the Knox County Commissioners.
The privatization was suggested by the commissioners in a meeting on March 30, when cost savings ideas were discussed. At that point, the directors were concerned the senior center, located in Mount Vernon, would suffer from budget shortfalls later in the year.
The homemaker program, which assists seniors with housework, and the chores program, which offers assistance with yard work, are performed by Station Break staff with equipment owned by the center. Clients who receive the services do so at a reduced rate, partially subsidized by The Station Break. To offer budget savings, the commissioners suggested outsourcing these services to the bidder who could provide such services at the lowest cost; they also recommend selling the equipment.
Lybarger-DeWitt said several companies bid on supplying the services. The bid was awarded to Unique Services of Mount Vernon, which bid to perform up to one hour of yard services for $18 per client, and up to one hour of house cleaning for $15 per client. The patrons will pay a $5 co-pay, to be collected by the contractor, who will then bill The Station Break for the balance.
The contractor will group jobs in order to do as many as possible at a time. Lybarger-DeWitt added that she has applied to the United Way for funding to help cover the co-pay costs for those clients who cannot afford it. She projected there will be around 150 clients for the services this year.
The Station Break will auction off a range of equipment, including commercial-grade lawn care equipment and a number of trucks used for these programs, as well as for snow plowing. The center’s snow-removal needs will be met through a contracted agreement with the city. Details and date of the auction will be announced soon.
“Many of the contractors bidding on chores asked about the equipment auction,” McIlvain said.
“Seeing the costs that will be coming down in our budget is exciting,” Lybarger-DeWitt said.
She also said it was unfortunate to see two full-time and two part-time staff members displaced by the restructuring.
Lybarger-DeWitt also brought blue ribbon pins for the commissioners to wear in support of child abuse prevention month.
In other business, Knox Job & Family Services director Roger Shooter informed the commissioners the KCJFS will call back a previously laid-off employee, thanks to federal stimulus money. This person will work with the department’s summer youth program and on programs for dislocated adults.
“The only worry we have is what happens when the stimulus runs out,” Shooter said.
The funding comes with the proviso that 75 percent of it must be spent this year. No future funding is indicated at this point.
Shooter said union negotiations will start Monday, but said he is anticipating a harmonious process.