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Oct 27, 2010 2:50 PMPublication: The Southampton Press

Demand Increases At Hampton Bays Senior Center As Funding Cuts Loom

Oct 27, 2010 2:50 PM

For some residents, the Southampton Town Community Center in Hampton Bays is home.

The facility, also called the Hampton Bays Senior Center, is run by Southampton Town and offers the community’s senior citizens a number of invaluable services: discounted lunches, adult day care and transportation so they can run errands, to name a few.

But above all the center offers a unique opportunity for seniors to mingle while enjoying a plate of hot food.

It is no surprise, then, that over the past few years, and particularly lately, Pam Giacoia, the director of Southampton Town Senior Services, has seen an uptick in the number of senior citizens requesting services—specifically at the Hampton Bays center. The town also operates centers in Flanders and Bridgehampton, although the number of seniors utilizing those facilities has risen less dramatically.

In total, somewhere between 30 and 35 more seniors have joined the Hampton Bays center each month, she said. At the other two centers, an additional 10 to 15 people have been using the facilities, she said.

The numbers are growing at a time when Ms. Giacoia could be forced to do more with less money. If Town Supervisor Anna Throne-Holst’s preliminary $82 million budget for 2011 is approved, at least $25,000 would be cut from the center’s nutrition budget, which goes toward feeding seniors at all three of the town’s centers. That money is also used to fund meals that are home-delivered to a number of seniors.

The department’s budget would be reduced from $285,000 to $260,000, according to figures provided by Town Comptroller Tamara Wright. Also, Ms. Throne-Holst’s preliminary budget would include leaving two vacant positions at the department unfunded—a clerical aide and a minibus driver position—according to Ms. Giacoia.

Both of those issues were aired at a Town Board meeting on Friday, October 22, when the tentative budget was converted into a preliminary document. Ann Pavlovsky, a Hampton Bays resident, took the podium to voice her concern over proposed cuts to the town’s food program. She said it would negatively impact the frailest of the town’s residents.

“A lot of them are just holding on day by day,” she said. “They just want a reason to get up in the morning.”

Ms. Throne-Holst responded by stating that she would restore the clerical position to Ms. Giacoia’s office, which was left unfunded after a retirement. Both Ms. Wright and Human Services Director Bill Jones said they hope to restore proposed cuts to the food budget soon.

Ms. Giacoia said she remains hopeful that the town will restore that funding, adding that town officials have been supportive of her department in the past. If necessary, she said she’d try to adjust to the cutbacks by purchasing items in bulk to save money. Her department’s many volunteers—who number well over 100—also help keep costs down, she said. “Some come in every day and work five to six hours a day,” she said.

There are several reasons why Ms. Giacoia thinks that more senior citizens are utilizing the Hampton Bays center, starting with its prime location on Ponquogue Avenue. Also contributing are the town’s growing senior population and the dismal economy.

“Over the course of the last couple years here in Hampton Bays, I’ve seen a big increase … But the last couple of years, I think it’s definitely due to the economy,” she said.

If a recent visit is any indication, those who frequent the Hampton Bays center are part of a tightly-knit community. On Monday, the center’s round tables were filled with an estimated 50 seniors who came out to enjoy spaghetti and meatballs, Ms. Giacoia said. That’s a light day, she said. For example, just last week, more than 125 people visited the center. She also noted that there’s a suggested donation of $3 for lunch, but “if people can’t pay, they don’t pay,” she said.

At one of the tables near a window, Ms. Pavlovsky and her friends were chatting over lunch. The scene is not too different from that of lunchtime in a high school cafeteria: the seniors occasionally joke around with each other and share laughs.

“This is our second family,” said Walter Flaherty, a Hampton Bays resident who has been visiting the center for the past three years.

As if to prove his point, Ann Favilla of East Quogue, who was sitting next to Mr. Flaherty, noticed a little drip of spaghetti sauce around his mouth.

“Walter,” she said, dabbing his mouth clean.

“See that?” Mr. Flaherty said. “See how they do it? They even wipe your face like that.”

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Wouldn't it be nice to publish a complete list of the budget, including any cuts & additions so we can see where all the money is being spent ?
By Bill in Riverhead (190), Riverhead on Oct 28, 10 9:01 AM
1 member liked this comment
Its on the southampton town website
By richgetricher (9), northsea on Oct 28, 10 4:02 PM
This is a disgrace, cutting this budget while keeping ineffectual persons on the Town payroll. Get it together ATH, you are the CFO of this town, time to start trimming the fat!
By ICE (1214), Southampton on Oct 28, 10 12:16 PM
This is sad!
We give so much taxpayer money to the schools and we can't take care of our older people? Maybe they should have a union..
By hmptnlocal (47), Hampton Bays on Oct 28, 10 1:46 PM
we can take care of them, and there is more than enough money to do so. when they start using their funds efficiently, budgeting properly, stop making huge fiscal errors and run the operation like a business rather than how most municipal and federally assisted operations are run - our citizens whose tax dollars have funded this will get the care they paid for and deserve.
By mackt (73), montauk on Oct 29, 10 6:44 AM
1 member liked this comment
This article shows how out of touch ATH is. There is absolutely no reason to cut the funding for senior services.
By EastEnd68 (888), Westhampton on Nov 1, 10 9:11 AM
I hope that the Southampton Senior Center in Hampton Bays is being used first to accomodate Hampton Bays residents before other towns. I believe we are seeing in our town more people trying to take advantage of our services by being bussed into Hampton Bays for schools, senior service and rentals.

The Town of Southampton needs to look over its expenditures first before cutting back on the Senior services.
By Bridget325 (27), Hampton Bays on Nov 4, 10 11:01 PM
I hope they use the budget for the seniors and no one else roaming around town.
By longislander40 (37), hampton bays on Nov 6, 10 12:05 AM