Senior Services Separation Plan Ignites Debate

Belmont County commissioners heard an objection to the planned separation of Senior Services from the Department of Job and Family Services on Wednesday.

Geary Battistelli, a concerned resident, proposed placing senior services under the control of the seniors themselves through creation of an advisory board consisting of a finance committee person appointed by the commissioners, an appointee by the seniors and one by DJFS.

He criticized the layoff of DJFS employees while plans call for hiring administrators. He said when Senior Services was defunded, there was a $900,000 deficit projection. The last quarter projections from 2012 show an $833,000 surplus.

“There’s no reason to upset the existing structure that you have on a subsidiary basis,” he said. “It makes no sense to me to interrupt the funding mechanisms.”

He also objected to the planned resignation of DJFS Director Dwayne Pielech, citing his qualifications and familiarity with the operations and the potential for disruption in finding a new director who may lack this experience. He speculated that Pielech might have faced a lack of cooperation from commissioners.

He expressed the opinion that the process of dividing the departments has been overly complicated and delayed during the past months.

“To allow the problem to go on and on and on is unnecessary,” he said. “This will go on for months.”

He asked commissioners to rescind their vote accepting Pielech’s resignation, establish a new Senior Services manager and resolve the division.

Commissioner Matt Coffland reiterated his belief that separating Senior Services from DJFS is a mistake. He said the numbers have not convinced him the move would be an improvement.

“There is a major divide here,” he said. “I feel that Job and Family Services are doing a fine job.”

Commissioner Chuck Probst criticized Battistelli’s speculations and said the facts of his presentation were not entirely accurate.