Home Health Care Program for Senior Citizens Expanding

Due to a substantial increase in the number of senior citizens applying for home health care since the management of the seniors program changed hands, Belmont County commissioners are expanding the program and are seeking to employ agencies to provide the service.

Since Oct. 1 when the commission took over operation of the seniors program, four home health care agencies – Advanced Home Health, Inc.; Helping Hands and Warm Hearts, LLC; Interim HealthCare Inc.; and/or Medical Services of America, Inc. doing business as Medi Home Private Care – have been providing the services under contracts that do not exceed $25,000.

In a resolution adopted in January, the commission noted that “the requests for services have increased more than expected in recent months and under one or more of the existing contracts will exceed $25,000” before the personal care contracts expire and bids are sought for new contracts.

So the commissioners declared “a real and present emergency” so that it could approve a $15,000 extension of the contracts not to exceed $40,000 to Feb. 29. “We did this because we did not want to deprive the senior citizens of personal care services,” commission president Chuck Probst declared.

Under Ohio code the commissioners are not permitted to spend in excess of $25,000 without seeking bids. However there is a section of the code that exempts the commission from competitive bidding when a situation arises that is determined to be a real and present danger. “This was an emergency situation because the senior citizens would have suffered if the home care services they had been receiving were suddenly stopped,” Probst pointed out.

He added that steps were immediately taken to prevent such a situation in the future. For the past two weeks the commissioners have been seeking bids from companies or organizations interested in providing homemaker and personal care services to the county’s senior citizens. Under the bid document the county is seeking annual contracts for the services with the possibility of a one year contract extensions. Bids will be opened on Wednesday at 10:30 a.m.

Dwayne Pielech, director of the county’s Department of Jobs and Family Services, which administers the seniors program, confirmed increased services. “Since we took over the senior services program on Oct. 1, the number of home care customers has increased from 275 to 325.” He indicated that placed a strain on the budget which led to the commissioners providing additional funds to carry the care program through to the end of this month.

Even more services will be provided this year for those enrolled in the care program. “We are starting to update every customer to see if we can give them additional services,” Pielech asserted, noting that there are instances where some seniors need more help than what is afforded under the health care program. “If they need help, we’ll see that they get it.”

Pielech also noted the meals program is also “making a comeback.” He said the program lost some clients “because of the switch in the meals preparation. The meals program is starting to increase once again.”

Under the former seniors program, Pielech pointed out, there were a total of 180,000 daily meals served to Belmont County’s elderly residents in a year’s time. “This year we look to increase that number to 200,000.”

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Jack Hanna, the renowned wild animal expert who has thrilled local children and adults with his display and handling of animals, will be returning for another local appearance in May. Stephen Ferrante, Captina Creek Watershed coordinator for the Belmont Soil and Water Conservation district, has contacted Hanna for an appearance here for his annual watershed rally. Ferrante is now accepting applications from organizations planning to have exhibits for the rally.

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A forum for all the candidates seeking public office in the March 6 primary election has been scheduled by the Belmont County Township Trustees Association for Feb. 20 at 6 p.m. at the Belmont County Emergency Management Agency’s disaster operations center.

Besides giving all the candidates an opportunity to make presentations, association president Greg Bizzarri said the meeting will provide an opportunity for the trustees to see inspect the facilities at the operations center.

The meeting will open with a regular meeting of the association at 6 p.m. followed by the candidate forum at 6:30 p.m. Each candidate will be given three or four minutes to talk. Afterwards the candidates will be open for questions.

“Although this is an association meeting, the public is invited and urged to attend to become familiar with all of the candidates,” Bizzarri noted.

The primary election candidates are also being invited to a “Meet the Candidates” event sponsored by the St. Clairsville Area Chamber of Commerce during its Wednesday noon meeting at Undo’s Restaurant.

Friday was the deadline for candidates to make their reservations for the event, but chamber executive director Jennifer Woollard noted that “if a candidate calls as late as Tuesday and wants to be on the program, we’ll make space for them.”

Although the candidate session is part of the chamber’s regular luncheon meeting, Woollard said the public is invited to attend. “We’ll have a special section set up for those who want to attend but who do not want to have lunch,” Woollard said, “but they, too, must make reservations so that we can provide ample seating.” Advance reservations must be made by 10 a.m. Tuesday by calling 695-9623.

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With so many companies seeking oil and gas leases in Belmont County, the county commissioners were visibly disappointed that only one bid was submitted to lease county-owned property for mineral rights.

What was even more disappointing to them was the fact that the county had offered more than 400 acres of property owned by the county for possible drilling rights and the one bid received was for just 49.96 acres in the Pultney-Mead townships area. More extensive acreage near Barnesville and also along Ohio 331 apparently were not considered. Commissioners indicated that perhaps there will be other offers coming later.

XTO Energy Inc., a subsidiary of Exxon Mobil, made the only bid for the 49.96 acres, offering $5,000 per acre under a three-year contract with royalty payments of 19 percent. Shut-in royalties for when a well is not producing was set at $25 per acre.

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Now that the mostly boring Super Bowl game is finally in the record books, it is time to turn attention to baseball. While there were a couple instances where boredom was pushed aside – like the last three minutes of the game – most people I talked to thought the game was just that: boring. What was most exciting, however, was how Tom Brady’s wife gave her explanation of why the Patriots lost.

While wearing my Pittsburgh Pirates jacket almost every day this winter, I’ve received a lot of comments from strangers like “Don’t have to ask who you root for” and many forms of “what’s going to happen with the Pirates next year?” And a waitress in a restaurant in Akron, which is Indians fan territory, quietly whispered to me, “nice jacket. I like them.” She whispered so that nearby customers would not hear her choice of the Pirates over the Indians.

Finishing in fourth place last year was a huge improvement for the team even though they racked up another losing season. There is a much improved and experienced pitching staff as well as hitters, so I figure they should be climbing higher in the standings – hopefully way up. Last I read about them, they were dickering with the New York Yankees for a pitcher to further strengthen their staff.

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Happy Valentine’s Day.

Al Molnar can be reached via email at: