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Museum & Senior Citizens lobby Massena town board for more funding


MASSENA - Representatives from the Massena Senior Citizens and town museum lobbied town board members for increased funding Wednesday night, while the director from Meals on Wheels took a more subtle approach, simply saying thank you for the increased funding this year.

Meals on Wheels Executive Director Jessica J. Fregoe said the organization originally requested $14,500 from the town, which would have been $6,400 more than what they received in the current fiscal year. According to Mr. Gray’s tentative budget, the organization will receive $9,500.

“We will graciously take the $9,500 and say thank you,” Ms. Fregoe said.

According to Ms. Fregoe, Meals on Wheels is reimbursed $4.70 for every meal they serve through a combination of state and federal funding that hasn’t changed in 11 years.

“That doesn’t take into account the increased costs for food,” she said, adding that they routinely serve between 90 and 100 people each day, with their numbers rising during the fall and winter.

“This past winter we served 106 people,” she said. “We’ll easily be over 100 this year.”

Ms. Fregoe said the organization also serves approximately six people in the town of Louisville, with Louisville contributing $2,500 to them each year.

Typically, Ms. Fregoe said the outside assistance they receive is enough money to sustain them for nine months out of the year, with the organization relying on donations and money raised through fundraisers to carry them through the remaining three months.

“We’re going to use the $18,000 we just raised to get through the year,” she said, referring to the proceeds from the annual Meals on Wheels telethon.

“In October, November and December, we rely on the resources we make,” Ms. Fregoe said.

Mr. Gray said he would like for the town to be able to do more for its non-profit organizations, but as he has said in the past he can envision a time when the town no longer has any money to provide to Meals on Wheels or other organizations.

“At some point town support for Meals on Wheels is going to expire. I hope it’s not soon,” he said before thanking the organization for all it does.

“I want to thank you and all of the volunteers at Meals on Wheels. You do a great service for the community,” he said.

Massena Senior Citizens Executive Director Sheila Benn and Club President Sylvia Despaw both lobbied the board for an additional $500 in funding from the town.

While the organization had originally requested $5,000 and Mr. Gray’s tentative budgeted gave them $4,200, Ms. Benn and Ms. Despaw said they would lower their funding request to $4,700.

Massena Senior Citizens received $3,600 for the current fiscal year.

Ms. Benn noted the organization has 525 members, each of whom pay $5 in dues per year, but the organization could have many more members.

“More than half of Massena’s population is 50 or older,” she said, adding their membership is actually open to anyone 45 or older as “lots of people have younger spouses.”

Councilman John F. Macaulay noted that the $600 more in funding they are slated to receive translates to a 16 percent increase.

“It’s not a lot of dollars, but it is a big percentage,” said Councilman Charles A. “Chuck” Raiti.

In a letter she read to the board, Ms. Despaw said, “We would appreciate an increase, as we’re using the center more. You can be sure your allotment would be used for the benefit of all the seniors.”

Ms. Benn said all the organization is looking to do is cover its expenses.

Councilman Albert C. Nicola noted the organization’s allotment was an increase from what they are currently receiving.

“The supervisor increased it to $4,200. Does that cover your expenses?” he asked.

Mr. Macaulay pointed out that the $4,200 would cover their expenses, as did the $3,600 they received last year “Four thousand two hundred dollars would cover your expenses, you would just like to do more,” he said, a statement that Ms. Benn agreed with.

Brian Schafer, a member of the senior citizens who was in the audience at the meeting, asked when the group would find out whether they would be receiving additional funding, commenting that he hoped the decision was made before Election Day.

“We have to listen to everybody. We like to listen to what everybody has to say before we go making decisions,” Mr. Macaulay said.

Mr. Gray added that he felt his budget proposal was fair.

“I don’t think my preliminary budget is so stingy that it doesn’t fulfill our responsibility to the senior citizens,” he said.

Presenting on behalf of the Massena Museum was Sandy Zappia, who noted that the museum had already saved the $2,500 by getting former Councilman Robert Cunningham to make a new sign for them free of charge.

However, in addition to that $2,500 Mr. Gray’s funding allotment for the museum was $2,200 less than what was requested by the Museum Board.

“We have to take our cleaner out of contractual, as well as workshops,” Ms. Zappia said. “With our utilities, that doesn’t leave a lot of wiggle room to do anything else.

The museum had requested $19,000, with Mr. Gray’s preliminary budget awarding them $15,000, an amount consistent with what they’ve received in previous years.

“Looking back, $15,000 seems to be a good number over the years,” Mr. Macaulay said, adding that the $1,300 the museum spent on a sound system this year is money they will not have to spend again this year.

“You’ll still be able to spend the exact same amount as you did this year,” he said.

Mr. Gray once again offered the museum a way to save $3,000, noting the town could take care of cleaning the museum, however, Ms. Zappia said that wouldn’t work.

“To quote Mr. Diagostino (Highway Superintendent Frank Diagostino), ‘His cleaners aren’t going to dust our knick knacks,’” she said. “It’s a different kind of cleaning.”

And while the amount allotted by Mr. Gray may allow the museum to continue as is, Ms. Zappia said they museum is looking to grow.

“We’ve become more visible in the community,” she said, adding the museum now had displays at the library and airport.

“We’re trying to develop our facilities, but this just doesn’t give us room to grow,” she said.

Mr. Gray asked whether the museum has pursued any grants, to which Ms. Zappia replied that is something they’re working on.

“We have been looking into grant writing, but no one on our current board has done that,” she said. “Nobody feels really confident, because we don’t have that experience.”

That being said, Ms. Zappia said the board is currently seeking out some smaller, less competitive, and less complicated grants.

“We’re looking for some grants that maybe aren’t to complicated to get our feet wet,” she said.

Massena Volunteer Rescue Squad board member Roger M. Bennett said the rescue squad was happy with their allocation, but noted the town is going to be looking at a capital expense in the near future.

Mr. Bennett said the squad’s entire parking lot could be paved for $62,275.

“If we don’t do the top coat, five years down the road, we’ll be digging the whole thing up at five times that,” he said, explaining they are in front of their garage bays could be paved for roughly $37,000, with the rest of the lot being completed for roughly $24,000 more.

Mr. Macaulay wondered if that was a project that could be divided up over two years.

“We can’t always drive a Cadillac, sometime we have to drive a Chevrolet,” he said, to which Mr. Bennett replied, “It’s not a Cadillac.”

Mr. Bennett did say, however, the project could be split up, but in the end it would end up costing the town more, noting the paving company has a $3,000 mobilization fee that would have to be paid both years.

Mr. Gray also noted that the cost of black top would likely increase.

The board will continue its 2014 budget review at 5:30 p.m. Wednesday, when representatives from the library, Business Development Corporation and Humane Society come before the board to make their case for additional funding.

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