STEUBENVILLE - Prime Time Office on Aging is asking voters to renew its 1-mill levy and approve a 0.2-mill increase on the May 6 primary election ballot.
Judy Owings, Prime Time director, said the 1-mill levy first was approved by voters 10 years ago. Prime Time provides meals for senior citizens, transportation services for medical appointments and health education and legal consultations.
The rising costs of food and fuel have cut into the amount of meals provided.
"Over the past 10 years, we had to trim back other services to preserve our core services of meals and transportation," she said.
The farmers' market voucher program was eliminated but the new senior center on Lovers Lane will offer raised beds for seniors to grow vegetables this summer. Senior center volunteers also will be planting pots with vegetables so the seniors can care for the vegetables at home.
Prime Time also had to cease offering in-home services to seniors who had just been released from a hospital. Owings said the office works with Trinity Health System and the Area Agency on Aging to begin a transition program from the moment the person is admitted to the hospital so discharge care can be arranged.
There is currently a 200-person waiting list for home delivered meals.
Owings said Prime Time can't make any more cuts in services.
"It is obvious we can't maintain the current level of services and we couldn't pare down anymore. We are asking for more money so we can continue with our mission of promoting a healthy, independent and productive senior citizen," Owings said.
If the additional levy amount is approved, the 200-person waiting list will be cut in half.
Owings said the number of seniors is growing in Jefferson County. By 2020, more than 30 percent of the county's population will be senior citizens, she said.
"There will be more of a need for services," she said.
The 0.2 of a mill increase will cost the owner of a $50,000 home about 80 cents a month. The current 1-mill costs the same homeowner about $4.20 a month. The combined cost is $60 per year.
The cost of delivered meals and congregate sites throughout the county amount for 80 percent of the approximately $1 million received from the 1-mill levy. There were 201,232 home-delivered meals and 50,142 meals provided at congregate meal sites in 2013. Owings said the average cost of a meal is $3.63.
Transportation amounts to 12 percent of the budget. There were 14,540 transportation trips provided in 2013. Prime Time has wheelchair-accessible vans.
Owings said the levy is not about the senior center but about the services provided by Prime Time.
Owings said Prime Time is trying to get more groups to meet at the community center. Groups routinely meet at the center, including the mended hearts and grief-support groups. Lab blood screenings are performed there. More than 80 people recently attended a lab blood testing during a three-hour period.
Entertainment is provide on a regular basis.
Volunteers put together a monthly newsletter that is mailed to members of the senior center and anyone who gets services through Prime Time, Owings said. The newsletter is done free of charge to Prime Time through a printing service company, she said.
"Everyone has a relative, neighbor or friend they know that could benefit from the services offered through Prime Time. Many families have both the husband and wife working and aren't available to daily look after an aging parent's needs. There isn't anyone in the county that isn't touched by someone who needs our service," she said.
Transportation services include getting to a doctor appointment, physical therapy or dialysis. Owings said there isn't a lot available for rural transportation.
"We are trying to fill in the gaps to keep people independent," she said.