Thanks for the help, but we need more.
That was the message Robert Lipsyte, a director of the non-profit Senior Citizens Foundation of Shelter Island brought to Tuesday’s Town board work session.
The issue is health care for the Island’s elderly population, and the lack of full medical coverage after-hours.
“We need an after hours urgent care capability,” Mr. Lipsyte told the board. “Urgently.”
He thanked the board’s response to what he called “a looming crisis facing Shelter Island,” which is the need for services for a growing population of “people over 85, often ill, disabled and living alone.”
According to the last U.S. census, 27.5 percent of the population on Shelter Island is at or above the age of 65, compared to 15.4 percent for all of New York state.
Mr. Lipsyte praised the board’s action in increasing the hours of the town’s social worker and the openness to listen to concerns from Town Attorney Bob DeStefano Jr. and Supervisor Gary Gerth. But the situation for the Island’s elderly, when it comes to health care, “is becoming more desperate,” Mr. Lipsyte said.
He described the Senior Center as overwhelmed with requests for services, which is “complicated by a larger crisis,” the inability of the two Island physicians to provide full coverage for residents.
An urgent care resource is an answer and plans should be put into action, he suggested. Mr. Lipsyte asked for a Town Board liaison to the foundation to help implement a strategy that will come to grips with a situation where many elderly Islanders are suffering.
The board agreed with Mr. Lipsyte on the need for a liaison. Councilman Albert Dickson volunteered to take on the duty, saying that he “wants very much to be involved.”
In other business: The board spent some time parsing the word “structure.” The term applied to the town’s responsibility for the maintenance of the Shelter Island Country Club’s clubhouse, which the board owns — along with the golf course — and leases to the club for $1 a year. The clubhouse needs a new stove because the gas stove in place is malfunctioning and could potentially trigger a hazardous situation.
Commissioner of Public Works Jay Card Jr. said there was money in the budget to replace the stove and the cost would be “in the “$5,000 range.”
Councilman Paul Shepherd asked: “Is the stove our problem, other than it could burn down the building?”
Mr. DeStefano noted that the lease specified that the town had to maintain the clubhouse structure, but there was nothing in the agreement specifically dictating who is responsible for a stove. He added that the matter “may be something to negotiate” with the club and the town contributing to the cost of a new stove.
Mr. Card said that under most leases for a house or an apartment, a refrigerator and a stove are part of the deal. Mr. Shepherd countered by asking what happens if the refrigerator at the club needs to be replaced. “Just so we know what we’re buying,” he added.
Mr. DeStefano reiterated that it’s “all open for negotiations. Fronting the money [to buy a stove] is not a problem. We can negotiate from there.”
Chief of Police Jim Read told the board that the “after party” for the Shelter Island 10K Race will be in the Center this year, rather than at SALT and the Island Boatyard as in previous years.
After the June 16 race, the party will be on the American Legion grounds and across the street on the Shelter Island School’s property. Chief Read said it would be “a fair-like atmosphere,” with food, wine and beer vendors on the Legion property and activities for kids, including “Bounce Houses,” on the school grounds.
The chief said having the party in the Center near the finish line at Fiske Field will make it easier for his department along with officers from the New York State Police Department and the Suffolk County Sheriff’s Office to control traffic and keep people safe.
School Superintendent Christine Finn was on board with the idea, the chief said, but asked that no alcoholic beverages be allowed to cross School Street where the kids’ activities will take place.