Topaz seniors may lose lunch over budget cuts

The dining program at Topaz Ranch Estates may be a victim of county budget cuts.

The program has served meals to more than 35 senior citizens from Holbrook Junction and Topaz Ranch Estates three times a week for the past eight years.

County commissioners will hear the budget for Douglas County Senior Services, as well as other departments today starting at 4 p.m. in the Douglas County Administration Building, 1616 8th Street, Minden.

Commission Chairman Doug Johnson said that while the meal program is on the list of cuts, that doesn't necessarily mean it will be cut.

South county seniors are fed at the Topaz Ranch Estates Community Park Building, a place affectionately known as the Side Car Diner, at the end of Carter Way in TRE.

Free bingo games are played from 11:30 a.m. while seniors socialize and learn the news of their community. Lunch is served at noon. For those, 60 and older the cost is $2 a day, younger than 60 is $5.

Most are unable to drive the 24 mile distance to Gardnerville and are brought to the park building by neighbors or friends.

"They come here just to have fun," Coy Struthers, weekly senior volunteer, said of the many that gather each week. "Most of the time they don't care what is on the menu, they just come here, have some fun, play a little bingo and enjoy each others company."

Senior volunteers, Struthers and Ronnie Park along with Ron Hill, who delivers the lunches prepared at the Douglas County Senior Center in Gardnerville, meet at the park building on Mondays and Tuesday every week along with Evelyn Burton, Peggy Crissman, Ronnie Park and sometimes Kathy Shoemaker who work with Hill on Thursdays.

Holbrook Junction resident, Melissa Hillsamer, is a frequent visitor at the park building.

"I am one of the few, under 60, who takes advantage of this opportunity," she said. "I am under 60 but my insides are 100, or so my doctor says."

Hillsamer, suffering from chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, was an employee at Topaz Lodge and Casino before the April 3 fire closed the casino down for repairs. Employed in a smoke free environment as a bingo attendant, she has been unable to participate in the cleanup operations at the casino. Currently unemployed, she has applied for disability.

"If it wasn't for being able to come here three times a week I wouldn't be eating very much," she said. "When I work at the lodge, I get lunch while I am working."

David Mitchel, 64, lives in Holbrook Junction and can't drive. Hillsamer brings him to the park building three days a week.

"They (the politicians) got our votes and now they don't care about us stuck out here," he said. "I just don't understand this country's system. They can spend billions overseas and let our people starve."

Other items on the agenda include significant fee increases for Douglas County Park at Topaz Lake, reduction in turf maintenance programs, fee increases in programs offered by the Recreation Division as well as closure of the Minden and Zephyr Cove branches of the Douglas County Public libraries an additional day each week.

The budget for Douglas County Parks, Recreation, Senior and Library services is subsidized by room tax and sales tax generated in Douglas County. These revenues have been flat or declining for several years and are not expected to rebound anytime soon. The above impacts and service reductions are proposed to be implemented within the new fiscal year beginning July 1.


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