By SUNNY LOCKWOOD
and CHRIS BATEMAN
More than 500 Calaveras County seniors who regularly enjoy hot meals courtesy of the Area 12 Agency on Aging's nutrition program will be out in the cold Thursday.
Or at least their meals will be brought in from the cold.
Claiming Calaveras County owes the program more than $40,000 and that meal service continues to lose $6,000 a month, the agency is pulling its kitchen out of the Calaveras Senior Center in San Andreas.
But seniors won't go hungry: Although hot meals will not be served until the senior nutrition program sets up its kitchen in new San Andreas quarters Feb. 17, Area Agency Executive Director Peggy Lee said frozen meals will be delivered to willing seniors during the gap.
The disruption will affect 410 Calaveras seniors who get their $2.50, cafeteria-style meals at the senior center and at satellite meal sites in Arnold, Angels Camp, Burson, Copperopolis and Valley Springs. Also hit will be 106 people who have their hot meals delivered at home. The Area 12 Agency's governing board voted 5-1 last week to move the senior nutrition program out of the senior center. A new site has been found, but it won't be revealed until formal agreements are signed.
"It was a hard decision," said board Chairman Mark Thornton. "But we have a legal and fiduciary responsibility, and the current arrangement was putting us further into debt."
Since the fall, Lee and Jose Aguilera, the agency's fiscal officer, have said repeatedly that the senior nutrition program in Calaveras is losing about $6,000 a month and cannot continue operating that way.
Other nonprofit groups that managed the Calaveras senior nutrition program in the past also operated at a loss, Lee said.
The new kitchen quarters, which Lee said the agency will use rent free, will improve the bottom line. The Calaveras Senior Center, a nonprofit corporation, has been charging the agency $1,000 a month.
But the rent reduction alone will not solve the meals program's problems.