Chariho School Parents’ Forum

March 14, 2009

LTE in Sun on Meal Site Program

Filed under: Budget,Hopkinton Town Council — Editor @ 10:34 am

Here is my response to the Sun’s report that the senior meal site may be eliminated.

Headline misrepresented senior lunch discussion

  The Westerly Sun was irresponsi­ble when it reported that the Hop­kinton Town Council was considering eliminating the senior lunch pro­gram.
  By the employee’s own admission, he has rarely been able to get seniors involved in any program other than the lunch. Hopkinton is essentially paying $46,761 for three hours of work each day, and the lunch isn’t even served 5 days every week.
  Councilperson Capalbo and I sug­gested using resources already in
town (libraries, churches, etc) to pro­vide a venue for speakers, computer lessons, or whatever the participants may want. But if participation does not materialize, we aren’t stuck with an employee with nothing to do.
  We also suggested continuing the lunch program at the Crandall House with part-time or volunteer help and reached out to Chariho because they operate a culinary arts program where students could receive valuable work experience helping us fill this need. Hopefully they will have a pos­itive
  Headlines like “Seniors could lose free lunch” sell more papers than “Councilors discuss how to provide more for less,” so we can only hope that readers keep this in mind when they are reading the “news.”
Bill Felkner Ashaway Bill Felkner is a member of the Hop­kinton Town Council and has been elected to the Chariho Regional School Committee.

On a related note, Thursday night we did revisit the issue and settled on paying just for the time serving meals and an additional $2000 to try (again) and develop some senior programs. Barbara also wants to pursue finding a senior advocate.

I voted against it for the following reasons.  Dilebro researched and found that Charlestown paid the most for their cook with $13 per hour.  We are going to pay $15 per hour – plus they proposed to pay for 20 hours per week thus putting them into the union and available for pension – thus it will end up costing us $18.27 per hour.  Hiring someone at 19 hours per week would have avoided the union and pension. 

Also, I asked that Delibero send a letter to Chariho asking  if the culinary arts program would send students to help (and give them experience).  The Rec Director could be licensed and anyone working under her (or volunteering) would be covered under that license. He did not send the letter to Chariho and pitched to keep the full program.

Aas an FYI – I just hired an office manager for $27k per year, no benefits and he is paid as a contractor so he takes care of his own taxes.  He is an honors graduate at RWU with federal congressional campaign experience – that works out to be less than what we pay our cook per hour and a good example of today’s  job market – at least in the private sector.

I did get a concession to NOT list the line item as salary so that if we wanted to just pay for lunches at Brick Oven or somewhere else in town we could.  Considering our budget works out to about $11 per meal (and that doens’t include the money the seniors give for the meal ($3)).  This will allow them to spend the money by going to Brick Oven and getting the $5.99 lunch special and save the town more money. 

As one person in the audience said (and she is a senior), spending this much money for something that could be purchased elsewhere for less “is crazy.”

I also asked those representing the library if they could provide the same speakers, computer lessons, or whatever the seniors want at the libraries for no additional cost.  They said yes.

But the reality is this is small potatoes.  The town has a hole of about $600,000.  I also made the pitch for vouchers – which with a conservative estimate of 8% participation we would save $540,000.  Hopefully Represenative Kennedy and Senator Maher will help us out on that.


  1. Delibero campaigning for the retention of an unneeded union employee is a very bad sign. The council agreeing is even worse.

    Besides the ridiculous pay of $15/hour, we will continue to be saddled with the benefit requirements of a union employee. I agree the money is small peanuts, but it is our peanuts, not the council’s.

    I would guess the seniors and The Rag had the council quaking in fear of more negative attention. Too bad they were unable to stand up for the rest of us. I think with the meal vouchers the seniors would have been thrilled and we would have saved ourselves the burden of a union employee and cut spending my several thousand dollars…an opportunity lost.

    Comment by Curious Resident — March 14, 2009 @ 5:57 pm | Reply

  2. I would think the seniors would be happy with tax savings as long it’s shown in the correct light. It’s all in how you spin it.

    Comment by CharihoParent — March 14, 2009 @ 6:53 pm | Reply

  3. I’m still wondering if the municipal court makes money for the town as promised. I have my supsicions we are saddled with another cost.

    On another note, do we know if the seniors taking advantage of the meal service even pay taxes?

    Comment by RS — March 14, 2009 @ 9:30 pm | Reply

  4. Well if you trust The Rag’s reporting (and why would you?), three of the seniors were from other towns. There’s a good chance that at least some of the seniors taking advantage of my generosity (as expressed by the Town Council) are not paying taxes in Hopkinton.

    Comment by Curious Resident — March 14, 2009 @ 10:36 pm | Reply

  5. RS, we covered that a few meeting ago – no the court is not making money, at least not yet. If we didn’thave it and people went to a court north, we still get the majority of the fines. Since we hold the court now, we get a little bit more of the pie. Also, if the case is dismissed and only court fees are assessed, we get all those. But as it stands right now its not making money on paper. I suppose there are peripheral savings such as a police officer not having to spend time going to a court elsewhere, but we don’t have a number on that. I wasn’t on the council when it was created but I assume they looked at other areas with courts to see what the projections would be. If that was looked at we could probably get a gauge of expected progress soon.

    Comment by Bill Felkner — March 14, 2009 @ 11:25 pm | Reply

  6. Let’s see if I can spin this as well as the newspapers do.

    HEADLINE: Hopkinton Taxpayers Duped Into Paying For Meals For Seniors From Other Communities

    Almost half of the seniors taking advantage of the free meals at the Crandall House are not even from Hopkinton.

    Sounds like good headlines!

    Comment by CharihoParent — March 15, 2009 @ 5:42 am | Reply

  7. I seem to remember the whole “consultant / employee” issue is fraught with hazard for employers, Bill. Be careful the IRS can’t come back later and declare this person an employee, which makes you liable for back withholdings.

    I understand that the job market is lousy, and the free market dictates pay and all that, but it seems to me that a young business (like OSPRI) that wants to grow and improve itself would want to be a better employer than to pay so little with no benefits. Unless, of course, the job is such that it’s okay just to cycle untrained new grads through it as each incumbent finds better positions (i.e., with health insurance and employee status).

    Comment by david — March 15, 2009 @ 9:35 am | Reply

  8. OSPRI should be a great breeding ground for developing a philosophy of individual freedoms and liberties. I imagine young people fresh out of college can bring passion and enthusiam with turnover leading to rejuvenation on a regular basis…fresh ideas constantly flowing through with Mr. Felkner as the constant.

    I would be disappointed if OSPRI became like Chariho seeing its mission as serving its employees. I’m sure if an indispensable person comes along and funding is available, OSPRI would make the effort to retain the employee…that’s how free markets naturally work…value for value.

    CP’s headline is much more accurate than what The Rag gave us. These days the media acts as yet another advocate for government growth. We shouldn’t expect to see honest headlines from the old media. I’ve been waiting for years for the media to investigate government with the same intensity they investigate private enterprises. I’m not waiting anymore. In line with this, if you do a video search of “Stossel goes to Washington” you will find an entertaining report on the inefficiencies and real damage done by government’s intrusion into all aspects of our lives.

    Comment by Curious Resident — March 15, 2009 @ 12:48 pm | Reply

  9. There are a couple of reasons for doing it David. I myself am on contract rather than an employee. And yes, we had to go around with the IRS to get our 990 license. But I have other things going on that I am more comfortable having the freedom. And our office manager is tied to a grant, so he is dependant on it as well. Plus, we do pay low, we acknoledge it. But they come through us because they can get good contacts and move on to something in DC or travel the world as a teacher for the military as the last person does.

    Comment by Bill Felkner — March 15, 2009 @ 8:54 pm | Reply

  10. When the court was proposed for Hopkinton, the town manager did include the cost of police overtime as the main savings. This area of the police budget was very high and the proposed savings from not having officers using overtime to attend courts “up north” was a selling point. If the savings from overtime could be quantified at the time of presentation(selling), then it should be a number which can be calculated now.
    Well we(some of us) bought and now own another bureaucracy which appears to be costing us money, instead of saving it.

    Comment by RS — March 15, 2009 @ 9:57 pm | Reply

  11. I’d like to hear one of our town councilors ask our town manager the meals site director was allowed to change his working hours to accommodate a second job. Although hired to work 9am to 4pm, he actually worked 5:30am to noon.

    Although it’s no longer an issue since the position has been eliminated, I’d like to hear the manager and council say this kind of thing will NEVER be allowed again.

    Is it any wonder the meals site director failed to run a successful program when half his work hours (assuming he was really there at 5:30am)took place before any other offices are open!

    Comment by yagottabekidding — March 16, 2009 @ 8:20 am | Reply

  12. Good tag line…yagottabekidding…and this is the problem with government in a nutshell. Accomodating employees rather than ensuring the “customers” needs are met. Once the government monopoly has its hands on our money, they have no incentive to deliver quality. The money almost always continues regardless of outcomes. Perhaps Mr. Delibero heard seniors are early birds and he figured the employee could greet them as the day began? Naah, I’m sure it was all about the employee and nothing to do with the seniors.

    Comment by Curious Resident — March 16, 2009 @ 9:12 am | Reply

  13. Hi!
    To formulate good public policy for Hopkinton, what is needed to know are facts and options. The total senior population is obviously higher than the numbers being served.
    What is needed is an active Committee on Aging which is dormant. I remember years ago when Stephanie Brown while on the school committee, got herself appointed to our town’s committee on aging. Which I recall did nothing.
    I think town services if legally possible, in many if not all cases, charge one fee for Hopkinton residents and another for non residents. I cannot comment to the extent philosophy of that in town activities. I believe it may be true in recreation?

    Comment by Scott Bill Hirst — March 16, 2009 @ 11:04 am | Reply

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