Archive for Wednesday, June 25, 1997

DCSS BOARD DANCES AROUND MANAGEMENT ISSUES

June 25, 1997

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Concerns about dancing led the board of Douglas County Senior Services to consider clarifying organizational responsibilities.

Out of frustration, Kit Carson stomped his foot and took his case Tuesday to the board of directors of Douglas County Senior Services.

He was rewarded for his labor, at least temporarily. And he sparked discussion among board members about the strained relationships between the DCSS' leaders and the users of the agency's services.

Carson, 82, told the board that DCSS' executive director, Marguerite Carlson, had recently prohibited a group of elderly dancers from adding wax to the wood dance floor at the Senior Center, 745 Vt.

Without extra lubricant on the floor, Carson said, some seniors couldn't execute turns at Wednesday afternoon and Sunday night dances.

Carlson explained that a slicker surface posed insurance liability and maintenance problems for DCSS.

"The safety is an overriding concern," she said.

Carson said the executive director had also told the dance group, Oldsters United for Responsible Seniors (OURS), that they could live by her rules or find a new location for their dances.

OURS has sponsored dances at the Senior Center for more than a dozen years.

"We have been intimidated," Carson told the board of directors. "If we don't take the wax off the floor, she can shut us down. We are an organization that is trying to do things for our people, and we would like to have the support of the board."

Bill Salome, chairman of the board of directors, said OURS could apply wax until the issue was studied by a board committee at a later time.

"We'll review it and get back to you," he said.

That didn't satisfy Evelyn Swartz, who joined DCSS' board in January. She said OURS deserved to be told immediately which committee would be responsible for the inquiry and when that committee would report its findings to the full board.

It was eventually decided the DCSS building committee, which has no chairman, would review the issue within a month.

Swartz suggested the way the dance floor disagreement was handled indicated a lack of focus in the nonprofit agency's organizational structure.

"I'm on the personnel committee," she said. "It's never met. I don't know who chairs it."

Swartz said the mission and expectations of all DCSS committees and advisory groups should be put down in black and white. These groups should be delegated specific tasks and deadlines for accomplishing each assignment, she said.

"If we're going to be serious about what we're going to do, that is central," said Grant Goodman, another recent addition to the board of directors.

Ed Dutton, co-chair of the Douglas County-Lawrence Advocacy Council on Aging, urged the DCSS board to invite an impartial third party to probe operations of the agency and make recommendations for ways services for the elderly could be improved.

"We want to be fair and open," he said. "We don't want combat between the board and the users. Some way, let's get it together."

Board member John Gingerich said DCSS must seek a "win-win option for all of us. I think it's possible."

"Not everything can be a win-win situation," Swartz said.

Dean Nieder, a member of the Douglas County Commission, attended the DCSS board meeting. The commission is preparing to review annual budget requests from organizations supported by the county.

In the current budget year, DCSS received $415,000 in county tax funding. DCSS requested a $17,000 increase from the commission for next year.

Nieder said prior to the board meeting that the only way for commissioners to influence DCSS was through the budget process.

"The commission has limited control -- it's financial," he said.

DCSS' mission is to create opportunities for Douglas County residents 60 years and older to remain independent and active in their homes and communities.

The agency operates transportation, prepared meals, recreation and education, day care and community service programs.

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