River Cities Gazette

Medley council cuts back lunches for hot meals program

SANDWICHED: Hector Rivero pauses while employee Lizmari Valido translates his message to the Medley council, asking to lower the age for free lunches to 62.
SANDWICHED: Hector Rivero pauses while employee Lizmari Valido translates his message to the Medley council, asking to lower the age for free lunches to 62.

River Cities Gazette

There may be fewer free lunches in Medley as town leaders voted 5-0 at a special meeting Oct. 24 to raise the eligibility age for its hot meals program to 62.

“It runs half-a-million dollars or more each year,” said Town Finance Director Roy Danziger. “That is just for the meals.”

Currently, if you live in one of Medley’s 337 trailer homes and are age 55 or older, you may have grown accustomed to getting a free lunch — and dinner. The town estimates that 386 residents get two hot meals delivered right to their door, five days a week. Meals include premium steaks, pork and chicken; a special dessert; and a beverage.

When you add in supplies and delivery costs, Danziger said, the hot meals program costs the town about $580,000 per year. Each meal cost $5.05, he said. 

“I think that 65 is too high,” said Hector Rivero, who helped persuade the council to lower the qualifying age to 62. “Other cities provide meals for $3.99. $5.05 is too expensive.”

Rivero was one of only two residents who showed up to challenge the program cuts.

Next on the social services hit list: housekeeping. Residents may have their toilets and bedrooms cleaned only once per week with a two-hour limit. The program, which currently costs the town $154,671 per year, will now be limited to those age 65 or older, or for those with special needs or disabilities. 

If locals feel their blood pressure rising, they may be in luck. The town tabled discussion on its blood pressure monitoring program until the next meeting. The program, where medical staff are sent to take blood pressure and glucose readings of residents, currently costs the town $36,504 per year. 

The town then canceled its contract with an alarm services company that provides burglar alarms at a cost of $28.95 each. Instead, it will help provide free cell phones through a government service for low-income residents. 

Employees also felt a pinch, as health insurance for part-time employees is now only available to those with 10 or more years of service for those hired after Dec. 31, 2013. Health insurance costs set the town back by $120,000 a month. 

“You can incorporate this through a resolution,” said Stephen Helfman, part of the law firm that collectively serves as the town attorney. “It can start whenever you like.”

Helfman added that the measures would affect a lot of people.

Medley homeowners, mostly seniors on fixed incomes, currently pay about 5.650 for every $1,000 of assessed taxable value to the city. 

The typical homeowner who takes the standard $50,000 Homestead exemption would pay $31.77 in taxes. The town has 337 trailers and 39 homes, according to Councilman Jack Morrow.

Medley could see a large turnout to oppose changes to its social programs at the next town meeting, which will be Monday, Nov. 4, at 7 p.m. at 7777 NW 72nd Ave. 

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