GERLACH, NV - Seniors living mostly on fixed incomes depend on meals, services and companionship found at Centers around Washoe County. However, budget struggles have meant tough cuts, reducing Washoe County Senior Services staff by nearly 20% since 2007. Now it's time to cut again. Director Grady Tarbutton says this time it means laying off the single employee working at Gerlach’s Senior Center.
“We can save about $20,000 by having frozen meals delivered," says Tarbutton. Under the new plan meals will be prepared then frozen at the Center in Reno. The frozen meals would be delivered to the unmanned center weekly. Tarbutton is hopeful volunteers will step forward to accept the deliveries and heat the meals for local seniors. He says volunteer support in Sparks, Reno and Lemmon Valley has flourished in our struggling economy, making those Centers even stronger than before.
But residents in Gerlach say they don’t have a population large enough to draw from. They say that volunteer programs tend to struggle in their small town, because most people only live in that area if they are already employed. Residents worry that eliminating the center's one employee would have a disproportionate impact on local seniors, and the rural economy. The full-time position at this center is expected to be eliminated July first. County officials haven't yet figured out how they will keep the center operational but they say they are dedicated to finding a way to keep it open.