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Carper questions Putnam Aging director

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Kanawha County Commission President Kent Carper has sent a letter to the director of the Putnam Aging Program questioning the organization's running of the senior nutrition program in Kanawha County.

Putnam Aging operates senior nutrition programs in Putnam, Kanawha, Clay and Fayette counties based on a state contract dating back to 1993. Putnam Aging supplies meals at several senior centers in Kanawha County and delivers home meals to some Kanawha County residents.

However, at a Kanawha County Commission meeting late last month, St. Albans Mayor and Putnam Aging board member Dick Callaway said there had been some complaints about long waiting lists to get on Putnam Aging's home delivery program. He said a few people had complained about Putnam Aging's food and services.

Putnam Aging officials responded at a commission meeting March 12 that they try to keep waiting lists short and had gotten no serious complaints about service in Kanawha County.

Carper wasn't satisfied. The next day, he sent a delegation to the Dunbar Senior Center for lunch, where they discovered Putnam Aging was out of food, according to a letter Carper sent to Putnam Aging Director Joyce Arthur on Friday. Carper also said seniors in Dunbar weren't very happy with the food, according to the letter.

Carper also said he received a complaint that one woman was told there would be a two-year waiting period to get her mother delivered food at home. Carper sent a lengthy list of questions concerning Putnam Aging's funding, staffing and operations in Kanawha County.

Ellen Mills-Pauley, president of Putnam Aging's board of directors, said the organization had not yet received Carper's letter Friday night. But she said staff have already been working to address his questions.

"In the 21 days since the accusations were leveled against Putnam Aging, we have addressed most of Commissioner Carper's concerns," she said. She said staff are aware of problems at the Dunbar Senior Center and are working to correct them.

"It's a huge undertaking to serve 174,000 meals a year in a county like Kanawha," she said. "We are dedicated to giving the best services that we can to Kanawha County seniors."

Mills-Pauley said most of the employees who work at Kanawha County senior sites live in Kanawha County, and about half of Putnam Aging's administrative staff are from Kanawha County, including nutrition director Drema Sizemore. She said federal guidelines help spell out the kinds and amount of food distributed through the aging program.

Mills-Pauley conceded there were waiting lists for home food delivery, but said no one has ever been on a waiting list for two years.

"It's not mismanagement, it's a budget issue," she said, adding that Putnam Aging lost $94,000 providing food to Kanawha County last year. "All over America people are in need of home-delivered meals, and they're not getting them because the money isn't there."

Carper said he just wants to make sure Kanawha County's senior citizens are being served.

"The only thing I've heard from the state is no one has complained [about Putnam Aging] and no one has concerns," he said. "I'm raising concerns.

"I just want to make sure our seniors are treated fairly," he said.

Reach Rusty Marks at rustymarks@wvgazette.com or 304-348-1215.


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