Tag: Adaptive

dental, adaptive recreation, senior transport floated for closure

Abilene City Manager Robert Hanna presented recommendations for the permanent closure of the city’s adaptive recreation program, its dental program and a senior transportation program at Thursday’s Abilene City Council meeting.

He also recommended the city stop providing funds to the United Way’s 2-1-1 A Call for Help, impose new fees to generate extra revenue, and leave certain positions unfilled.

Those changes are in response to budgetary shortfalls caused by loss of sales tax revenue once generated from taxing Internet access and from COVID-19.

Hanna told the council in a memorandum that the city’s Department of Finance and Accounting estimates a reduction in sales tax allocation payments for fiscal year 2021 of $2 million.

That revenue loss is likely permanent. 

Sales tax accounts for about a third of the city’s general fund.

“All of these services provide essential services for the people that are using them,” Hanna said, who said he did not “make these recommendations lightly.”

But Given expected loss of revenue, “I have to cut something, I have to cut somewhere,” he said.

More: Abilene city manager to pitch $3.13 million in budget cuts, reallocation to council Thursday

More: Hendrick, community leaders to public: ‘Abilene is at critical juncture’ with COVID-19

Looking at funding

The proposed cuts could allow the city to reduce expenditures by $1.46 million, through a combination of trimming programs and services — and also through leaving certain positions currently open unfilled.

Certain programs could be absorbed by existing services, such the transportation program, which serves 24 riders a day and makes about five trips a week for physician appointments.

The city already provides a public transportation system and offers on-demand ridership programs for medical appointments through CityLink, Hanna said.

Other programs, such as adaptive recreation and senior recreation, have been closed during COVID-19, Hanna said.

Hanna said that he wanted take employees from program areas that may be cut and try to place them in other open positions.

Open positions that would not be refilled would come from a variety of areas throughout the city. 

a man wearing a suit and tie: Re-elected Abilene Mayor Anthony Williams wore a face mask Tuesday at the Taylor County Plaza, once even while addressing the media. Nov 3 2020

© Greg Jaklewicz/Reporter-News
Re-elected Abilene Mayor Anthony Williams wore a face mask Tuesday at the Taylor County Plaza, once even while addressing the media. Nov 3 2020

New funding, reallocation

In addition to those measures, Hanna recommended the city change the use of some existing revenue and create additional funding.

Those proposals could add $1.68 million to the general fund, with the collective measures generating around $3.14 million.

New revenue would include charging $2.50 for senior meals that have previously been free, generating a net $185,920 after the loss of other donations, he said. 

He pitched a $20 charge per player, per season field use charge for recreation programs, something the city has “avoided” for some time, he wrote in his memo.

That charge would generate $119,000 in revenue.

He proposed the city take $598,000 from one cent of property tax normally earmarked for maintenance at the Abilene Convention Center to offset loss of program revenue from canceled

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Adaptive sports program helps veterans stay connected through outdoor recreation

In the two decades since he retired from the Army because of multiple sclerosis, Karl Smith has dealt with feelings of isolation.

For years, the 72-year-old Vietnam veteran from Falmouth didn’t get out of the house much, not knowing when his stamina and ability to walk would fail him. Last winter, he heard about Veterans Adaptive Sports & Training in New Gloucester, a program started by fellow Army veteran and Olympic biathlete Kristina Sabasteanski. Smith was quickly able to make connections with people and get outdoors for hikes, biking and archery – sometimes using a three-wheel walker and a recumbent bike.

Karl Smith practices archery with Veterans Adaptive Sports Training on Oct. 14. Derek Davis/Staff Photographer

In March, as the pandemic limited gatherings and forced Mainers to stay home, his connection with other veterans in the program only grew. Though he was unable to get together physically with other veterans for a while, he did not feel isolated.

Sabasteanski kept the group connected virtually, with weekly Zoom chats, which became lifelines for Smith and other vets.

Karl Smith holds a photograph of himself taken in 1969 at his base in Vietnam. In the photograph, 21-year-old Smith holds a puppy. Derek Davis/Staff Photographer

“I think I spent more time talking to other veterans on Zoom than I had before,” Smith said. Talking to others was comfortable and helped Smith accept and “more easily live with” what he describes as a long-standing ambivalence toward his service in Vietnam.

Though Sabasteanski has run VAST for eight years, on the campus of the nonprofit Pineland Farms, the program has been especially important to its members during the pandemic. They kept connected virtually during the first few months of shutdowns, in March and April. When they resumed the program’s weekly activities – including archery, bocce and biking – it was while wearing masks and keeping 6 feet apart.

More than 160 veterans took part in the program this fiscal year, down from about 230 the year before, a drop caused by COVID-19, Sabasteanski says. The participants – who come when they can, or want – range in age from about 30 to 91. They include amputees, veterans dealing with brain injuries, post-traumatic stress disorder, dementia and a host of other challenges. Activities include archery, cycling, fishing, orienteering, wheelchair basketball and tennis, bowling, disc golf and hiking trips. The program meets every Wednesday, and various other days during the week.

“It’s so important for them to be able to hang out with other veterans and share stories, and joy, doing something fun,” said Sabasteanski, 51. “When the pandemic hit, I thought it was really important to keep people connected.”

The program is funded by a Veterans Administration Adaptive Sports Grant, as well as individual donations, an Avangrid Foundation Grant and by Pineland Farms. The nonprofit Pineland Farms is a 5,000-acre working farm, with grounds that also house education and recreation programs, as well as several businesses.

VAST participants, including Carmine Melito and VAST director Kristina Sabasteanski,

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