CONCORD—Newly installed Concord Supervisor Clyde Drake opened dialogue with one of the town’s biggest critics this year. Sardinia resident Mary Jane Miess was invited to Drake’s office along with her husband, John, and councilman Bill Snyder to discuss Miess’ concerns.
Over the past year, Miess has raised concerns with operations at the Senior Center, the hours of the senior center director and the programming provided for seniors. She voiced her concerns at almost every board meeting in 2017, but felt she wasn’t heard.
“It was a small miracle … having [Drake] reach out,” Miess said. “It was a great conversation, we sat and talked like human beings. It was just an absolutely wonderful dialogue.”
Miess said she was able to share her concerns with Drake and Snyder, as well as her feelings of being shut down last year, and is confident the town will work with her.
“They want to improve things. It’s an entirely different atmosphere,” she said. “I think it’s got a good root to start a soft approach. I’m totally pleased.”
Most of her concerns stem from the director’s hours being reduced to 19 hours per week, from the 40 hours the director worked when the building opened. The hours, however, were always slated to be 19 hours for the director, but Healthy Community Alliance awarded a grant to the town for a 40 hour position for a SCENe program director. The grant ran out in September 2016, and beginning Jan. 1, 2017 the director worked 19 hours a week. Miess felt the position should be more hours to have the senior center open more often. As a member of the Senior Services Advisory Board, a committee of 15 volunteers who share guidance to the Department of Senior Services, Miess said the issue is important to her.
“Seniors should be able to go in … and visit with each other,” Miess said. “There was all this money spent [on the building] and I feel it isn’t being utilized.”
Drake said he wanted to open the conversation because he feels he and Miess have similar goals for the senior center. He wanted to understand where she was coming from, but at the same time have her understand where the town is coming from.
“We have similar goals in mind … but we just kept heating each other up,” Drake said. “She has to work with us … not against us and we can get this figured out.”
Drake is hopeful he and the board can work alongside Miess to provide good services for seniors in the area. He noted the nutrition site at the senior center is open three to four times a week, which is more than some bigger towns in Western New York.
The senior center, he said, is important to the town board and the citizens. It shouldn’t have been a political conversation this past election, Drake said, but rather something the town celebrated.
“We all have similar goals, let’s work together and figure it out,” Drake said. “[Miess] was able to see where we were coming from and we could see where she was coming from.”
Starting the conversation is the first step, continuing it will be the next step. Drake and Miess have scheduled a second meeting, along with senior center director Eleanor Eschborn, to keep the dialogue open.
“It was a complete turn around,” Miess said. “There’s an open dialogue now. I can see now where [the town] is coming from and we’re starting the conversation on how we can improve for the seniors.”
At the Jan. 4 board meeting, John Miess publicly thanked Drake and Snyder for their time and understanding where his wife was coming from. He called the meeting an “olive branch” and expressed his readiness to continue the conversation. Drake said he plans to continue speaking with Miess, and others who may have concerns with any aspect of the town.
“I have an open door,” he said. “Come and see me.”