Anita Cardinale is a 78-year-old retired nurse who had come to look forward to the hot meals delivered to her Springfield home on weekdays.
Now, as the result of a cost-saving move imposed by the Otsego County Board of Representatives, the only meals being brought to her are frozen, and an entire week’s worth arrived bundled together on Monday.
“This is not a good way to treat our elderly people,” Cardinale, retired from Bassett Medical Center, said in an interview Wednesday. “I’m not worried about the freezer space. That’s the least of it. Before, when the meals were brought ever day, people had socialization. That’s not going to happen anymore. We are losing that daily contact.”
A homebound meal recipient who was born when the White House was occupied by President William Howard Taft said she was deeply disappointed that senior citizens were impacted when the county looked for ways to trim spending.
“What will the government do with the money that they save?” asked the woman, who lives north of Cooperstown and spoke on the condition of anonymity. “I’m glad I’m not a baby being born. I’m glad I’m at the other end. I’m 102 years old and I don’t deserve that.”
County officials said the austerity measure — the switch from hot meals to frozen ones is projected to save $76,000 annually — was first discussed a few months ago. At that time, county department heads were told to cut spending in order to avoid layoffs and prepare for a lean budget for the fiscal year that begins Jan. 1.
In the end, the $125 million budget approved last week reflected both the cut to the senior meals program as well as an increase of $159,000 to cover raises to county department heads. Some of those managers had gone without pay increases for six years, and advocates for the raises argued the county should increase the salaries while it had enough money to do so.