Special from the West Suburban Journal
Tempers flared at Proviso Township’s Corporate Board Meeting held November 7, as a representative from the Bellwood based West Suburban Senior Services requested assistance from the township to bridge senior transportation issues. Although important topics were discussed, residents from 10 villages that the township services had no impact on the deliberations because no one attended this public meeting.

“We run 16 passenger wheelchair equipped buses. We primarily take people in our buses to our site and occasionally to physician offices. The township on the other hand runs cars and is an escort; maybe a one-on-one or a two-on-one situation,” said Rob Green, executive director of West Suburban Senior Services (WSSS). “Their program is limited primarily to medical and some grocery store trips. There are some seniors that quite frankly can’t be on a bus. If you are receiving dialysis you do not want to be on the bus. The bus ride is very difficult.”

Green went on to say that depending on the varying times of dialysis treatment, patients can’t adhere to a set schedule. Therefore, if the bus leaves at 1 p.m. it can’t come back at 3 p.m. to pick someone up because it transports 15 other passengers, while the township cars have more flexibility because of the one-on-one ratio.

The township’s transportation service does have more flexibility but the time the service is provided conflicts with the needs of some seniors. The township’s drivers are also not trained to deal with seniors suffering from certain medical conditions.

“I have two answers for you. Number one, you pick up at seven in the morning. We don’t pick up till’ eight. You want people brought home at 4 p.m. and we don’t service that late. We don’t service after 3 p.m. and I think you know that also,” said Kathy Ryan, Proviso Township supervisor. “I also think you know that Alzheimer’s patients cannot ride in our cars with our drivers who are not trained to handle that person who at every stop light is going to want to get out. Our drivers are just normal people who come on board. They’re not trained medically. And I think you also know that!”

Green was also asked to explain why, in a 2001 proposal from WSSS requesting funds from Proviso Township, most of the money was going to staffing. “How can you spend 89 percent of your grant money on administrative costs and then come to us to handle delivery. I don’t want to see that happen with this money. I mean that is not right,” said Ryan.

Ryan’s reaction to WSSS proposal is of particular interest because according to Proviso Township’s 2005 budget, 77 percent of the half a million dollars allotted to senior services is spent on personnel and administrative costs, while only $118,040 is actually being spent on services for seniors, senior outings and nutrition subsidies.

Proviso Township, which serves over 136,000 residents, spends only 14 percent of its nearly 4 million budget on senior services, while Oak Park Township, which serves slightly over 50,000 residents, spends 29 percent of its total budget on senior services.

Senior services provided by Oak Park Township include lunch served daily, bingo and a Dine Out program. Oak Park Township was awarded the Distinguished Budget Presentation Award for its FY2004-2005 budget. It is the highest form of government recognition for professionalism in budgetary and fiscal management practices.

Although senior attendance at the township meetings is little to none, some feel the township’s easy phone accessibility gives seniors a way to voice their concerns.

“I think there is a lot of exposure. If you are a senior you can usually get to the township in one phone call,” said Green.

Proviso Township collector Joyce Lewis agreed, saying there is always staff available to handle the concerns of residents. “They could call the Clerk’s office directly. The office is open from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. everyday. There’s always staff or somebody here that can answer questions.”

There was not a representative at the board meeting from Proviso Senior Services, although the minutes from the previous Senior Services meeting are approved on the first Monday of the month at the Corporate Board meetings. The program manager over senior services is Regina Rivers. However, she does not attend the meetings either.

The actions of township elected officials could be better policed if the general public would attend public meetings. Green felt the poor attendance could be attributed partly to the time the meetings are held. “You’re not going to have seniors come to a public meeting in the dark. They just don’t do it,” said Green.

Lewis felt an overall ignorance of township government by the average resident could also be a factor.

“Township government is not something that a lot of people understand. It’s sort of a ‘fill-in-the-gap’ governing body; where villages leave off and counties pick up. That’s where the township comes in, so a lot of people, except for the seniors, don’t have a feeling of what is available,” said Lewis.

The major differences between township and village government is that the village presides over municipal services such as police, fire, parking and streets while the township focuses on human and social services.

Townships were established as units of state government under the 2nd Illinois Constitution of 1848. Voters in Illinois counties were given the right to adopt the township form of local government in 1849. With the option of choosing a township type of government, voters gained the opportunity to elect officials from their local communities. The average township board is made up of four trustees and a supervisor.