Midstate county could outsource senior meals program

Written by Ben Allen, General Assignment Reporter | Jul 15, 2014 4:01 AM

Photo by Ben Allen/witf

Barbara Moore serves food at Heinz-Menaker Senior Center in Harrisburg.

(Harrisburg) -- Dauphin County is talking about eliminating a dozen jobs and outsourcing its senior meals program.

Inside the Heinz-Menaker Senior Center in uptown Harrisburg, about 30 seniors gathered for lunch of hot or sweet sausage, corn, mashed potatoes, and baked beans on a recent afternoon.

It's a part of the county's senior meals program, which includes Meals on Wheels and serves about 650 people.

Dauphin County is said to be one of the few in Pennsylvania that still operates its program.

But it soon could be run by a private company.

Two commissioners say they're in favor of outsourcing the work that goes into producing these meals: Jeff Haste and Mike Pries, while George Hartwick is leaning against it.


Photo by Ben Allen/witf

Dauphin County Commissioner Mike Pries talks with those who use the county's senior meals program. Seniors were most concerned about the quality of the food, not the outsourcing itself.

"If my decision is I want to make sure 11 employees get a dollar or two more in their wages, versus a couple hundred seniors not getting meals, I'm going to vote for the seniors. This is about providing quality meals to seniors," says Haste.

He says some $300,000 could be saved every year.

But, Hartwick counters outsourcing could end up costing the county money in the future, if a private vendor decides to hike rates.

"The outsourcing is not a guaranteed future rate, and once you lose control of the ability to control the rates internally, somebody could inevitably jack up those rates that would not allow for long-term future savings, which is also a concern when you're not in control."

The board is expected to call for bids at a meeting this week.

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