Napa County approved a draft agreement along with Solano County to keep Meals on Wheels, senior transportation, senior legal help and other senior services running.
The Napa County Board of Supervisors did so Tuesday despite concerns voiced by local senior advocates. Advocates are afraid a last-minute decision to make Solano County – not Napa County – the program’s administrator isn’t best for seniors.
Supervisor Alfredo Pedroza responded by asking for quarterly updates on the reformulated Area Agency on Aging.
“I would like to give advocates an opportunity to come to this Board and if they’re not satisfied, I’d like to know about it,” he said.
Supervisor Diane Dillon cast the lone dissenting vote. She agreed with advocates that Napa County should be the administrating agency, as was originally planned with no objections from Solano County.
“The demand and desire for excellence in the folks we hire to serve our seniors – that demand and desire I have not seen exist in Solano,” Dillon said.
Napa and Solano counties are seeking to run the new Area Agency on Aging. The nonprofit group that previously had the job surrendered the state-recognized designation effective July 1 amid financial problems.
The reformulated Area Agency on Aging will steer more than $2 million in federal funds to nonprofit groups that serve seniors in the two counties. The state is doing the job until the planned, new version by Napa and Solano counties is up and running.
Senior advocate Heather Stanton voiced no fear that an Area Agency on Aging administered by Solano County will get money to local service providers. But federal funds are shrinking and the agency must understand how to find and leverage other funds for seniors, she said.
“What we’re looking for most importantly is advocacy, leadership, dedication and enthusiasm,” Stanton said.
Senior issues are a small piece of Solano County’s large pie, Stanton said. They are a big piece of Napa County’s smaller pie.
Napa County Executive Officer Minh Tran praised senior advocates for being champions of their cause, then responded to their concerns.
“It seems to me there’s a lot of misinformation here and there’s a lot of fear here as well,” Tran said.
The new Area Agency on Aging will be governed by an oversight board with both Napa County and Solano County representation, Tran said. That board will set policy, he said.
But he recommended against having Napa County run the day-to-day administration of the Area Agency on Aging. That would mean county staff that presently focuses only on Napa County senior needs would also have to focus on the needs in Solano County.
Solano County has 75 percent of the seniors served by the Area Agency on Aging, Tran said.
“That staff, that advocacy, would have to spend three quarters of the time on behalf of the residents living in Solano County,” Tran said.
Such points swayed a Board majority, though supervisors had some reservations.
“This is tough,” Supervisor Ryan Gregory said. “Everything I hear (from staff) makes sense, but we’ve got a room full of people who have been there and done that, and they’re concerned.”
The boards of supervisors in both Napa and Solano counties on Tuesday approved the draft joint application to the California Department of Aging for Area Agency on Aging status. They also approved a draft joints power agreement and draft budget.
If the two counties had declined to become the new Area Agency on Aging, the state would have tried to find a nonprofit group interested in taking on the job.