Mayor Ben Kessler, several Bexley City Council members and residents are opposed to legislation under consideration on by council that would create a standing committee to offer advice on issues related to older adults because they say it could place a strain on the city staff and duplicate services provided by the Bexley Activities Club.

Ordinance 44-19, introduced by council member Mary Gottesman, would create the Lifelong Bexley Advisory Committee to recommend programs and initiatives to address the needs of residents age 55 and older.

The committee would work to identify the need for social services. That is different from the BAC’s focus, said Gottesman, who leads council’s strategic committee.

"The focus of this group would not be the same focus the BAC has had," she said. "Their focus has very much been on social activities, and nobody denies how important those are. I would say there’s a great big hole in making sure that there are services for all of our seniors at every level of income and every level of physical mobility."

The legislation received a second reading Dec. 3.

Council members are expected to vote on the third and final reading of Ordinance 44-19 on Tuesday, Dec. 10.

Kessler said although he agrees the city should provide services for senior citizens, it doesn’t have enough staff members to offer adequate administrative support for a new committee.

"What I have found is in the past four years, we’ve probably doubled the amount of committees," Kessler said. "The amount of administrative bandwidth, intention, minute-taking, staff resources that are dedicated to any given committee are extensive."

Kessler and several council members also said they believe the proposed Lifelong Bexley Advisory Committee would duplicate services the BAC already provides.

Council President Lori Ann Feibel said rather than create a new committee, the city should explore whether the BAC could expand its programming to encompass social services.

"They already have this network established," Feibel said. "They already know when some of their members have increasingly needed."

BAC member Paul Miller said the organization would be open to expanding its focus.

"Thirty-five, 40 years ago, seniors were approached by the city to form a club for social, entertaining, educational activities for the seniors, and that’s what our bylaws say and that’s why our focus," Miller said. "It doesn’t mean we can’t change or expand."

Justine Barr, a community-health planner with Franklin County Community Health and co-chairwoman of the Bexley Community Health Action Team, said the Lifelong Bexley Advisory Committee would be useful in focusing exclusively on social services.

"It will support senior and older adults aging in their homes," she said. "With an appropriate bank of services, a robust and strong volunteer base, I see Lifelong Bexley as really beneficial to not only the seniors, but it will also help build an even stronger sense of community here in Bexley."

Kessler said the city has a pilot program scheduled to launch next year with Jewish Family Services that can help assess what social services are needed for older adults in Bexley.

"I want to hear from the bulk of the senior citizen population in Bexley about what they want and how they want to achieve it," he said.

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