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January 24, 2014

In Our Opinion: Board has chance to do right thing

The Daily Star

---- — It’s not often in life that after making an egregiously poor decision you get a chance for a “do-over.”

But members of the Otsego County Board of Representatives will have just that opportunity before them when they meet Feb. 5.

They will have a chance to reverse their indefensible move that changed the county’s weekday program for the needy elderly from delivery of hot meals to once-a-week issuing of frozen dinners.

On Dec. 18, shortly after the change was voted upon, we took the board to task in this space, wondering what the reps could have possibly been thinking. Depriving seniors of hot meals and daily human contact with the providers would save “a lousy $76,000 out of a yearly budget of $125 million. That comes out to 0.0608 percent.”

Since our editorial ran, we have heard from disappointed seniors and members of their families who hoped that somehow the board would reverse this mistake. The only positive responses to the December decision we received came from two members of the board. The idea, as stated by one of them, that the recipients preferred frozen meals is absurd.

Well, now, the board — with some newly elected members — has a chance to right that wrong.

Even as it cut hot meal service to the elderly, the board voted to raise the salaries of 81 non-union managers. But county officials determined that the raises could not go into effect without the board passing a local resolution setting the individual salaries for the employees in question.

So, now there has to be another vote.

We don’t begrudge the managers, who haven’t had a hike in pay for six years, their modest raises. They would cost the county only $159,000 in the current fiscal year.

We agree with Rep. James Powers, R-Butternuts, who said it would be “unconscionable” to deny the raises after promising they would be coming.

“The department heads for our county agencies are the ones who make this board look good,” said Powers. “Six years is a long time for anyone to wait for a raise.”

It would take more than the able contributions of the department heads to make this board look good, however, if it gives some of its most vulnerable citizens the cold shoulder with frozen dinners instead of hot food and daily interaction with other human beings.

It’s fine for frozen dinners to be delivered in advance of a weather event, such as a blizzard. But if the board members don’t take advantage of this “do-over” opportunity to do the right thing by our senior citizens, we will make certain that before the next election voters will remember the reps’ cruelty and folly.