HR County declines request to take on Area Aging Agency

Hood River County has turned down a request from the state Department of Human Services to absorb services offered by the Area Agency on Aging.

Mid-Columbia Council of Governments decided this summer to hand off its four main programs — including the AAA — to other agencies. Their action requires DHS’ Aging and People with Disabilities Division to find a new home for AAA, according to a county staff report.

At the Hood River County Board of Commissioner’s Oct. 16 meeting, County Administrator Jeff Hecksel recommended the board decline the offer to take on the program, given the pressures he said that would pose on staff time and county resources amid budget shortages.

“This would be something new that the county would be taking on … and while they may say it’s self-supporting, I don’t know that it is, and it would take up staff time. Unless the county gets additional revenue in here, you’re going to be going the other way — not adding stuff, you’re going to be taking it away,” Hecksel said.

“If it were a different time a different situation, it might be a different answer … it’s hard,” Hecksel said.

During a round of discussion, Commissioner Les Perkins called AAA the most difficult program through MCCOG to administer.

“I think that this particular service needs to be provided by a board that has stakeholders on the board, not just an elected county board,” Perkins said. “It’s a population that needs to be served properly and it takes a lot of attention.”

There are 17 Area Agencies on Aging across Oregon that administer and support community-based care services.

The agencies are responsible for analyzing the needs of seniors, assessing the existing services and implementing new services where needed in the region they serve. Region 9’s AAA — based in The Dalles — leads programs in Hood River, Wasco, Sherman, Gilliam and Wheeler Counties.

Most of their programs serve adults 60 and older, according to the local AAA website.

Commissioner Bob Benton noted, “I think this is always an option to take back to our county moving forward.”

The board agreed with Heckel’s recommendation and voted unanimously 5-0 to reject the AAA offer.

After a nearly 40-year existence, MCCOG voted this summer to find new homes for its major programs and the agency will cease to function as a direct service provider, The Dalles Chronicle reported in August.

Benton, who also serves as a Hood River County representative on the MCCOG board, gave a brief update Oct. 16 about MCCOG’s steps toward passing off services.

“We’re informing the appropriate agencies that we work with that we will not be renewing contracts, and stopping services,” he said.

Mid-Columbia Economic Development District (MCEDD) expressed interest in taking on the LINK transportation program, Benton said.

Greater Oregon Behavioral Health (GOBHI) also showed potential for taking on certain MCCOG roles. However, the MCCOG building codes service has yet to find an interested agency.

In other action

The board finalized an order re-approving a 100-foot cell tower planned for construction near Windmaster Corner, a follow-up to their September meeting concerning a Land Use Board of Appeals remand of the case.

Commissioners also mulled over an event permit ordinance. Staff are developing a set of rules to require special permits for events occurring on county lands — and reviewing the fees they carry. The board took no action.

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