06/01/11 10:18pm

Should the town spend the $70,000 to $75,000 to improve the kitchen facilities at the town’s Senior Activities Center so it can resume its “Silver Circle” luncheon program on Wednesdays?

Town Board members on Tuesday seemed to agree that they should try to find a cheaper alternative.

The program was disrupted over a year ago when the County Department of Health informed the town that its kitchen facilities at the center, in the town medical building on Route 114, did not meet health code standards for adequate dishwashing temperatures, ventilation, refrigeration, or grease trap systems.

Councilwoman Chris Lewis, with Public Works Commissioner Mark Ketcham on hand to provide cost estimates, posed the $75,000 question for the board at its work session Tuesday.

The board liaison for the senior program, she said the town had a HUD block grant of about $30,000 for the improvements.

Sometimes in life, she said, we can’t afford things and maybe that time had come for the town and its Silver Circle luncheon.

Councilmember Lewis told the board that the improvements “are not required for any other thing” except a weekly luncheon for about 12 to 14 seniors and their aides, a total of about 20 people.

“Your decision has to be whether we should pull back on this project,” Ms. Lewis said. “I’ve already indicated to the seniors at our last meeting … there is a very good possibility we will not do the project. I just don’t see, at this time, in this economic climate, this town putting that kind of money into a program that is as wonderful and important as it has been, … we have to do the kind of cost-benefit thing. How many people do we honestly serve with an investment that is going to be about $75,000?”

Asked by Councilman Reich if the program, which includes games and activities, could continue with “single service” meals provided in individual, disposable servings from a commercial food preparer, Ms. Lewis said the county probably would allow it.

Currently, the town Meals on Wheels program is providing food  for the Silver Circle as a stopgap measure.

Mr. Ketcham said the required work included a new commercial dishwasher, cabinets, septic system, removing a fuel oil tank, a secondary water heater, and rebuilding the kitchen cabinets.

The board made no final decision but asked Nutrition Program Director Karin Bennett to look into other ways to keep the once-a-week program going, such as buying prepared foods from a deli, seeing if any restaurants that are closed at lunch would take on the diners, or moving them to the Presbyterian Church on Wednesdays, where senior luncheons for a larger crowd of more mobile participants are offered on Mondays and Fridays as part of the town’s senior “Dinnerbell” program.

Also at the Tuesday work session, the board:

• Informally agreed to schedule a hearing on a proposal to adopt a state model “MS4” law to manage runoff from construction on sites that cover an acre or more, despite Councilman Glenn Waddington’s strong reservations. The town is required by the state to adopt the law or something similar.

He said adopting the law “could come back and bite us” by imposing unexpected, burdensome requirements on homeowners. Town Attorney Laury Dowd argued that wasn’t going to happen, that the rules would have a limited impact. Councilman Reich said the town’s “hands were tied and it had to adopt the law” while Supervisor Jim Dougherty said that adopting the model legislation would keep the town from becoming a “sore thumb” to the state DEC, which could fine a town $50,000 for failing to act.

“MS4” refers to a state program to regulate “Municipal Separate Storm Sewer Systems” as required of the states by the federal Clean Water Act.

• Agreed to schedule a hearing on an amendment to the zoning code that would clarify when a pre-existing, non-conforming use would be considered to have been abandoned — after a year of disuse;

• Agreed to schedule a vote on allowing the Fire Department to use the fuel depot at the town’s highway barn for its vehicles, as does the Village of Dering Harbor and the school district.

• Agreed to consider using a Maine-based website, townhallsteams.com, to post the board’s video-recorded meetings on for $250 a month with a two-year contract, despite Councilman Ed Brown’s objections.

Mr. Brown said the town had to stop opting into programs that were sure to become fixtures in the budget. He said minutes and video of the board’s meetings were already accessible. Supervisor Dougherty supported the online service, saying the fee would not exceed the town’s existing budget for videotaping its meetings.

Councilman Reich, who presented the proposal, said there are many residents and taxpayers who’ve asked him to make meetings available on line.

Meetings could be downloaded at any time for up to a year after they are taped; archiving video beyond a year would require an extra fee.