BY BRIAN McGILLIVARY
TRAVERSE CITY — A divided Grand Traverse County board agreed to restore $20,000 in funding for a program that delivers hot meals to home-bound seniors.
County Commissioner Ross Richardson suggested the board fund the Meals on Wheels program through the county senior center millage. The meal program also provides lunches to the centers. The senior center millage had a surplus, but some commissioners opposed funding the program without a recommendation from the county’s Commission on Aging.
Board Chairman Larry Inman said the majority recognized they eventually would have to fund the program and believed there was no point in sending it back to the COA.
“We painted ourselves into a political corner,” Inman said. “You can’t ask voters for a millage renewal ... and then come back and cut the most popular program out there.”
Commissioners Dick Thomas, Addison Wheelock Jr., and Larry Fleis joined Richardson and Inman to amend the budget and restore funding.
Commissioners Christine Maxbauer, Herb Lemcool, Jason Gillman, and Rob Hentschel voted no.
Meals on Wheels officials said at least 27 seniors who currently receive meals in Grand Traverse County would have to go on a wait list without the county’s funding.
Lisa Robitshek, director of Meals on Wheels of Northwest Michigan, said she was grateful for the public support expressed at Wednesday night’s board meeting.
“There were a lot of people there who made comments, people I had never met before,” Robitshek said. “It was so widespread how many people were touched by how important this program is.”
The Northwest Michigan Community Action Agency was already in the process of trying to fundraise $82,500 this year for the five counties it serves. It was about half-way to its goal when the COA voted to strip its annual appropriation, putting it in a deeper hole.
“We’re grateful they restored the funding. It’s wonderful because it’s about 3,000 meals,” Robitshek said, “but the need is still great.”