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Carroll commissioners talk ailing senior inclusion program, repairs to county buildings

With senior centers closed due to COVID-19, Carroll County’s senior inclusion program is facing a revenue shortfall, said Celene Steckel, the county’s director of citizen services, at a county commissioners’ meeting Thursday.

In past years, the program — which provides retirement services to 25 seniors with intellectual and physical disabilities — has produced an average surplus of $33,000 a year, Steckel said. But this year, with its services drastically reduced by the pandemic, it’s grappling with financial woes.

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In July, the Board of County Commissioners eliminated three part-time positions with the senior inclusion program, but that did not relieve the deficit completely, Steckel said.

“If we’re unable to close the gap, a decision will need to be made about the services we provide,” Steckel said.

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The program could need additional funding from the general fund to continue, Steckel said, or officials may need to eliminate one full-time program aide position. But if senior centers reopen, or the SIP program is able to provide more services and generate more revenue, such measures may not be necessary.

Since late June, the program has provided some virtual and in-person programming, but senior centers remain closed, limiting programming.

“We are basing this presentation today on the worst-case scenario,” Steckel said.

In other COVID-19 related measures, the commissioners voted to spend up to a half-million dollars in CARES Act funding to install bacteria-killing ultraviolet-C (UVC) lights in heating, ventilation and air conditioning systems in county buildings.

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The lights can kill mold, bacteria and viruses circulating through HVAC systems. UVC-based technology has been in high demand lately, according to a June 2020 New York Times article, thanks to CARES Act funding for technology that could help fight viruses like COVID-19.

For the first phase of the project, which includes 12 county buildings — including the county office building — commissioners approved spending about $191,000.

The county will also spend about $26,000 for asbestos abatement in the county office building, and has initiated an evaluation for possible repairs at the Pleasant Valley Wastewater Treatment Plant, which is “nearing the end of its 25-to-30-year service life,” said Andrew Watcher, the county’s Bureau of Utilities chief. The evaluation will cost $24,300.

“The Pleasant Valley plant is in pretty dire straits,” Watcher said. “I expect that we will need some large-scale rehab work going forward.”

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