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Local News

Joliet officials give lukewarm response to Senior Services Center

Tom Bajt, 83, talks with Jeannie McCauley, 73, after delivering her a meal Jan. 29 through the Senior Services Center of Will County Meals on Wheels program. Representatives from the Joliet-based senior services agency met last week with Mayor Tom Giarrante and City Manager Jim Hock to discuss a financial crisis tied to a shortfall in state funding.
Tom Bajt, 83, talks with Jeannie McCauley, 73, after delivering her a meal Jan. 29 through the Senior Services Center of Will County Meals on Wheels program. Representatives from the Joliet-based senior services agency met last week with Mayor Tom Giarrante and City Manager Jim Hock to discuss a financial crisis tied to a shortfall in state funding.

JOLIET – City Council members are reacting with caution to a request from Senior Services of Will County for $100,000.

Representatives from the Joliet-based senior services agency met last week with Mayor Tom Giarrante and City Manager Jim Hock to discuss a financial crisis tied to a shortfall in state funding.

The issue is expected to be brought up at Tuesday's City Council meeting.

But Giarrante and council members said Monday they are concerned about the impact on the city budget, as well as the potential precedent for other agencies that may look to the city for help, were Joliet to fulfill the request for support.

"They do a great job. There's no question about that," Giarrante said. "But I'm concerned about opening a Pandora's box. There will be a line out the door."

Joliet previously shared casino tax revenue with the Senior Services Center, other nonprofits and even local school districts. But that money was cut off in 2009 after gambling taxes declined along with other city revenue sources because of the recession.

Councilman Jim McFarland said he heard there was discussion of transferring some city money from the Rialto Square Theatre and Joliet Area Historical Museum to the Senior Services Center.

"I would consider giving them money if the mayor and city manager propose giving some funding from the extracurricular services we already support," he said. But, he added, "Just to balance this year's budget we had to dip into our reserves. I'm not for dipping into our reserves anymore to support an outside agency."

"Joliet is not going to have $100,000 to put out there," Councilman Larry Hug said.

Hug said that since the Senior Services Center is a Will County agency, it should seek money from a "consortium" of municipalities.

Patricia Hensley, Senior Services Center executive director, said last week the agency would approach every municipality in Will County for help.

Hensley could not be reached for comment Monday. But in a Feb. 10 letter requesting the $100,000 that was sent to Giarrante and copied to council members, she noted the agency serves more than 27,000 Joliet seniors.

"It breaks my heart that Senior Services, with all the great service they provide, is under the gun right now," Councilwoman Bettye Gavin said. But, she added, "Budget constraints will have to be seriously looked at."

Gavin said she expects the matter to be discussed Tuesday.

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