The city is closing half of its senior centers due to budget cuts, but it will add at least five new laptops at those that remain.
At a meeting of the Board of Alderman Human Services Committee on Tuesday night, the eight board members present voted to apply to and accept a $10,000 grant from the Connecticut Department of Social Services to purchase 10 laptop computers for the city’s three senior centers — Dixwell, Eastshore and Atwater — and the Department of Elderly Services.
The decision comes about three weeks after Mayor John DeStefano Jr. announced that three other senior centers — West River, Westville, and Bella Vista — would be closed by July 1 due to a 28 percent cut in the city budget for elderly services. But Mickey Mercier, legislative aid to the Board of Aldermen, said the two financial decisions were unrelated.
“It doesn’t have anything to do with the closing of the senior centers,” Mercier said. “It was just a matter of timing.”
The grant was initially scheduled to be heard March 2 for unanimous approval by the committee, but it was postponed in light of impending budget cuts, he said.
Mercier said the hearing may have incited protests from seniors — seniors who might have misconstrued the source of the funding from which the computers would be drawn — but none attended the meeting. Not a single alderman voiced concerns about passing the resolution unanimously during the Tuesday meeting.
“This is something that is a blessing, that it is coming to the city. It is time-sensitive, and I urge all the aldermen to support this,” Ward 16 Alderwoman Migdalia Castro said at the meeting.
“It’s been too long that senior citizens haven’t had the means to support their older years,” she added, mentioning that many seniors rely too heavily on paper mail.
Ron Manning, the deputy administrator of the Department of Elderly Services, explained that half of the computers will be rotated between the senior centers for use by members, to give senior citizens hands-on experience with the new technology. The other five would be used for communication between the Department of Elderly Services staff members, two of whom are located in City Hall, he said.
“They wanted to understand computers in general. What essentially we have heard is the exposure to it, learning a little more about it, having it be a little more friendly,” Manning said.
The grant, which had been written prior to the meeting, still presented funds directed toward six — not three, as will be the case beginning in July — senior centers.