Senior kitchen taking four years and $110,000

JULIE LANE PHOTO | Public Works Commissioner Jay Card Jr. at the Senior Activity Center kitchen this week with volunteer Mimi Brennan.

The kitchen at the Senior Activity Center is almost done and pending inspection by the Suffolk County Department of Health Services.

But the project initially priced at $56,000 — considered by some Town Board members to be high at the outset — has cost $110,250. Much of the project has been funded with aboit $72,000 in New York State Community Development Block Grant money along with an $8,000 grant from the Shelter Island Senior Foundation and $7,500 from the Lions Club. From a taxpayers’s perspective, that means most of the cost didn’t come from the pocket that holds local taxes; it came from the other pocket that holds the money they pay in state income taxes.

And some of the total $110,250 wasn’t charged against the grants, but charged to other lines in the town budget. That’s because installation of new septic system and well will serve the entire building — including offices of Shelter Island Family Medicine and Dr. Peter Kelt, according to Public Works Commissioner Jay Card Jr. The result is that about $14,600 is left in the grant funds that could be applied to another project, Mr. Card said.

Initial violations cited by the Health Department were improper ventilation, inadequate refrigeration, lack of a grease trap system and water not heated enough for dish washing to kill bacteria. The county also wanted changes to the building’s septic system and well. The early $56,000 estimate quickly escalated to $75,000.

That prompted Councilwoman Chris Lewis to question whether the town could afford such an investment. While the Town Board wrangled over how to might find money, Public Health Sanitarian Gina Scammon said prepared packed meals from the Presbyterian Church kitchen could be served on paper plates at the Activities Center.

So how does a project not meant to happen in the first place end up doubling in cost? the answer, goes back to an August 2009 day when a Department of Health inspector bound for the Presbyterian Church to check out facilities there accidentally found herself at the Senior Activity Center.

It happened to be a Wednesday — the one day of the week that hot luncheons were prepared at the Senior Activities Center for the Silver Circle, about 20 of the Island’s oldest residents and their aides.

The inspector immediately closed the kitchen, declaring it out of sync with department regulations for hot food preparation. However, those who eat there on Wednesdays get hot meals prepared at the Presbyterian kitchen by the nutrition program, meeting the requirements of the Suffolk County Office for Aging and the Suffolk County Department of Health.

The one part of the project that was most annoying to Mr. Card was replacing a perfectly good well that was providing clean water for the building with a well that subsequently had to be cleared of coliform bacteria and e-coli before it could be used.

A new septic system required tearing up carpeting and jack-hammering concrete to reach old pipes and then re-carpeting. A new hot water system had to be installed so water for dish washing would be at 160 degrees, rather than 120.

Putting in a stove hood was initially thought to be simple until it forced relocating the stove, and installing a complex ventilation system through the building roof. Counters had to be shifted to different locations to accommodate the new stove location.

Another glitch developed when the new refrigerator purchased to meet health department standards for the senior lunches was allowed to be used only for that purpose. If staff members bring their own lunches or anyone brings any perishable food to the center for any purpose, it would have to be put in a separate refrigerator.

While some work had to be put out to bid to professionals, other work was performed by members of the Public Works Department, saving the town money, Mr. Card said.