Norwich budgeting to fully fund Meals on Wheels request

Norwich - A controversy that embarrassed the city last fall will be avoided if the city manager's budget proposal to fully fund the city's share of the regional Meals on Wheels program is approved by the City Council.

The Thames Valley Council for Community Action, the agency that administers the Senior Nutrition program, revealed last fall as it faced federal budget cuts that Norwich had been the only municipality of the 36 served by the program not to have contributed for the past 40 years.

No longer.

City Manager Alan Bergren included the entire $18,602 TVCCA requested as the city's share for Meals on Wheels. But Bergren cut the requested $26,000 for other TVCCA agency costs to $16,398, for a total allocation to TVCCA of $35,000. The Last year, Norwich had given TVCCA only $4,000 for agency costs, with nothing for Meals on Wheels.

"We are thrilled with the support," TVCCA Executive Director Deborah Monahan said.

"Every year, TVCCA puts a request to all our municipalities, including Norwich, for municipal support for the overall agency to show to our funding sources that our municipalities support the work we do."

Monahan said TVCCA sends out its requests to municipalities in January based on the level of services provided in the individual town. The agency asks for support of Meals on Wheels and for a portion of the agency's administrative and other services costs.

"I appreciate that (Norwich) can't fully fund that," she said. "We will continue to try to demonstrate to them our value to the community. But to go from $4,000 to $35,000 is a big step."

Bergren said he discussed his planned allocation to TVCCA with Monahan before presenting his budget to the City Council April 7. He said he could not recommend budgeting the full request, because although it is a small amount compared to the overall $118 million budget, the city faces pressures and many requests from outside agencies for funding.

"I came up with a number we felt we could get to," Bergren said. "We're looking at everything. It's not just their request. We're trying to honor everything."

Monahan said Meals on Wheels already is much more financially stable this year than last year. The agency received word earlier this spring that federal sequestration that brought major cuts to the program will be avoided this year, and if Norwich's municipal allocation is upheld as expected by the City Council, meals will be delivered to city clients four days a week.

Last fall, the agency was forced to cut deliveries to one day a week, delivering a week's worth of food to each client during the one stop. The reduction confused some clients who ate all the meals days before the next delivery.

c.bessette@theday.com

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