ELIZABETHTOWN — The Essex County Senior Citizens Picnic got a final OK Monday from county lawmakers.
The $5,000 cost of the annual gathering had been dropped from the budget for the County Office for the Aging to save money this year, but seniors triumphed after all.
The money was restored, but only after some members of the County Board of Supervisors questioned the need for the spending and two voted against it.
The Essex County Senior Citizens Picnic is a well-attended event, usually held at the Newcomb Town Beach, but who should pay for it became the subject of contention recently after it was first tentatively restored at a Board of Supervisors committee meeting.
County Office for the Aging Director Patty Bashaw was called to the podium Monday to answer questions about the picnic.
Supervisor Margaret Bartley (D-Elizabethtown) said those attending the event are charged the regular senior lunch program fee of $3.50 each, and she asked if the $5,000 was to transport people to Newcomb.
Bashaw said they served almost 400 meals last year, at a cost of $1,900, plus $525 for doughnuts, and that transportation costs $1,800 for three buses.
The meal charge made only $673 last time.
“We don’t charge for the meal; it’s a donation,” Supervisor Thomas Scozzafava (R-Moriah) said. “It’s (the picnic) money well spent.”
Supervisor George Canon (R-Newcomb) defended holding the event in remote Newcomb.
“People come to Newcomb because the town provides a good experience,” he said. “This thing has taken on a life of its own.”
Bashaw said the staff time to plan and hold the picnic is estimated at $5,000 but doesn’t come out of the county picnic contribution because those involved are already on the county payroll.
She said the picnic was deleted because her agency was asked to reduce its budget.
“We took $5,000 from our recreation program at the time we were asked to find 10 percent (cut),” Bashaw said.
The Board of Supervisors finally agreed, 16-2, to restore funding for the picnic.
Supervisors Edward Hatch (D-Willsboro) and David Blades (R-Lewis) voted against the contribution, saying the county had layoffs due to budget cuts last year and that restoring a picnic would send the wrong message.
This year, the event will be held at the end of August, with the date to be set now that funding is back on.
With the help of Adirondack Community Action Program, which operates the senior meal sites in the county, senior citizens get music, food, games, bingo, door prizes and horse-drawn wagon rides.
Seniors can have their blood pressure or blood-sugar levels checked, and an information tent staffed by Essex County Cooperative Extension and the Retired Senior Volunteer Program is set up at the picnic.
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