Preparing hot meals for local seniors-in-need will be a little easier thanks to a $132,000 boost from the Lodi City Council on Wednesday night.
The council voted 4-1 to steer the bulk of Lodi's leftover Community Development Block Grant funds to the LOEL Senior Center for a kitchen renovation project that promises to produce 500 meals each day.
Tracy Williams, executive director of the LOEL Center, said the money will help expand and stabilize a meals program that was jolted this summer. Seniors First, the nonprofit that provided meals to seniors, went out of business in June, leaving LOEL to run the entire program.
Delivery dropped from five times a week to once a week, with frozen meals replacing hot ones, Williams noted.
The biggest loss, in some cases, has been the interaction between delivery staff and homebound seniors, she said.
"Sometimes these seniors need to be seen every day," Williams noted, following the council's vote at Carnegie Forum.
"Some of them have (nobody) else but us."
She added that hot-meal delivery could be restored in roughly three months with the help of Lodi's Salvation Army chapter.
The center now delivers frozen meals to 150 homebound seniors in Lodi, Williams said. It provides 50 meals per day on-site.
In other actionThe Lodi City Council decided in closed session not to purchase the office building at 300 W. Pine St. Instead, the city will go forward with plans to move Lodi's finance department out of that building and into the city-owned Public Safety building at 210 W. Elm St.
The council, as part of those relocation plans, approved during open session a $598,160 contract with Sequoia Pacific Builders, Inc. of Roseville. The company will renovate a portion of the Public Safety building before city finance employees move in. The council set aside an additional $100,000 for the work. A staff report lists the entire project cost at $750,000.
Through the money it will save in rent on the Pine Street building - more than $11,000 per month - Lodi expects to recover all relocation expenses in four-and-a-half years, City Manager Blair King said.
Local hotelier Russ Munson had offered to sell the Pine Street building to the city for an undisclosed amount.
- News-Sentinel staff
Several council members lauded the center's work and its plans to install the new commercial kitchen. The project is estimated to cost $500,000. LOEL has received a pledge from Lodi Memorial Hospital to donate $100,000 worth of equipment. It also has a commitment from "a local banking partner to provide the balance of needed funding for construction costs," according to a city report.
Williams said the new kitchen should be complete by June 2009.
"LOEL has stepped up to the plate and is desperately trying to make the changes to that kitchen … that will be able to make that program sustainable," Councilman Larry Hansen said.
The council approved an additional $100,000 in grant funds at the meeting. That money will be channeled to the following projects:
• $85,000 will go toward Lodi Library restroom improvements. Plans call for making the staff and lobby restrooms more accessible for residents with physical disabilities.
• $11,000 for the Lodi Library Literacy Program. Two tutoring stations will be built with the money. The aim is to increase privacy and expand the space available to the program.
• $4,000 for Lodi's Spay/Neuter Program. This is in addition to the $15,000 in grant funds the council allocated for the newly created program earlier this year.
Councilwoman Susan Hitchcock was the lone "no" vote. She expressed support for all projects chosen. She explained, however, that the $4,000 would be better spent helping the LOEL project, given that the spay/neuter program had already received money.
Community Development Block Grants, often referred to as CDBGs, are routed to cities and counties each year by the federal government. They're intended to supplement affordable housing projects and services for the most vulnerable in a community, and to create jobs through the expansion and retention of businesses.
The program began in 1974 and is administered by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.