“Seniors, kids and cops”

Oak Harbor's projected cuts include some popular programs.

  • Friday, November 12, 1999 5:00am
  • News

“Although Tom VanVoorst has trouble speaking, struggling for breath between words, Jennifer Lamar can hear him loud and clear. She sits next to his wheelchair, visiting and giggling about things that even a close-up spectator cannot hear.Three times a week, VanVoorst and a dozen or so other disabled and elderly people in the community attend the senior day care for five hours to play games, make crafts, exercise and visit with the three lively staff members.VanVoorst, who is confined to a wheelchair, says that the program is one of the few opportunities he has to go beyond the doors of his adult family home. “I like coming here because at home I just sit in my room or the TV room,” he said.But the opportunity might vanish in the year 2000.Along with many other services, the adult day care program, which costs the city $17,000 a year, is tentatively on the budget chopping block to make up the $800,000 in funds the city will lose next year because of the passage of Initiative 695.That upsets some local people who see or feel the benefits the programs bring.Cutting programs like the day care doesn’t make sound financial sense in the long run, Senior Center director Bridget DeMuth said. Programs like the adult day care center are created to keep people out of nursing homes and other institutions as long as possible, which saves government huge amounts of money.Perhaps more importantly, DeMuth said, the program simply does a lot of good for a lot of people. “When people go home (after day care) they are calmer and easier to work with,” she said. “It’s healthy for them and healthy for their families.”Several programs for the elderly, the disabled and youth are at the top of the city’s list of cuts. Here’s a look at some of the programs that have made the tentative chopping block:• Summer recreation program. City Supervisor E.T. Silvers said the entire summertime recreation program at City Beach Park may be cut, which will save about $78,000 nexy year.According to Park Director Hank Nydam, about 600 kids are involved in the city’s recreation program each summer, plus it provides about 38 part-time jobs for local teenagers.The program’s activities include summer youth basketball, T-ball, arts and crafts, special needs day camp, Wildcat volleyball camp, summer youth soccer, summer cheerleading, tennis clinics, a concession stand at the windmill, and open swimming at the city lagoon.• Meals on Wheels. Jim Self, the nutrition director for Senior Services of Island County, said that Oak Harbor donated $15,500 for the food program this year, which may be cut next year.Through its Meals on Wheels program, Self said Senior Services provides well over 10,000 meals each year to the elderly and disabled in the Oak Harbor area alone.But while the program receives some federal funding, Self said the loss of money from Oak Harbor will be a big hit to the budget and will eat away at the number of meals the non-profit organization can provide.If the cut comes, Self said he won’t be able to afford to offer meals at the Senior Center three days a week anymore. Which means local seniors will miss out on 6,200 meals next year.• Fort Nugent Park. Silvers said the city may not be able to afford maintenance and upkeep at the new Fort Nugent Park. A new parks maintenance position was budgeted for $25,000. Without the new position, he said the park may not stay open, which means the new ball fields will go unused.• Police. Although Police Chief Tony Barge said he hasn’t targeted any programs for cuts, Silvers said that programs like D.A.R.E. and the high school resource officer may have to go. Both programs put police officers into the schools to interact with students.”

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