The Tracy City Council on Tuesday, Aug. 20, unanimously authorized the use of $10,000 to hire a consulting company to facilitate two town hall meetings aimed at forming a senior citizen advisory committee.
Kim Scarlata, recreation services program manager for Tracy, explained to council members during a presentation Tuesday that the consulting firm would work closely with a three-member senior steering committee to lead the two town hall-style meetings.
Scarlata’s report was a response to the council’s July 2 request for the city staff to identify ways to form a senior advisory commission in the city. Councilwoman Nancy Young first expressed interest in forming such a group, to give seniors an avenue to discover services and events that target the age group.
Council members will choose the three members of the steering committee through an application process. They voted unanimously to approve guidelines that require candidates to meet the following criteria: be at least 55 years old; work or have experience working in a senior-related field; have the ability to take an active role in meetings; and be a resident of the city of Tracy.
Members expressed that the first two items are "desirable" and not "mandatory."
Scarlata told the council that the city would search for a consultant with experience handling senior-related issues. She explained that such a company can manage the meetings, which are anticipated to have many differing issues and viewpoints.
The consultant will work with the steering committee to form a report based on responses gathered at the two meetings. It will be presented to the council in January and offer a recommendation of how to form a senior committee.
Young called the approach a "medium ground" and noted that "it definitely wasn’t what I asked for" when she proposed the senior advisory commission. She hoped meetings would be more frequent and ongoing.
"(The report) really just gives a layout of all the issues of seniors, and so it’s kind of like a finite kind of thing," she said. "You just find out the issues and boom, here they are, versus a commission, because to me that would be more ongoing and continually cycle issues as they come up and as they are needed."
Young did endorse the consultant-approach as "a better investment" and called it "the most unbiased way" to facilitate the town hall meetings.
Mayor Brent Ives said council members started the parks and recreation commission in 1987 using a similar process that eventually led to the city’s parks and recreation department.
"I would like to see more strategic things come out of this; for instance, make the case for starting a senior commission that comes out of this process," he said. "That way, you have an incremental process to leads to an end and it’s a more strategic solution than tactical solution."
Councilman Robert Rickman wanted city staff to look for a local consultant who might be familiar with the needs of local seniors. He also noted that the $10,000 could be used on a senior-related issue that the city already knows about.
Mayor Pro Tem Michael Maciel said a consultant would help "produce a quality product in a timely manner."
"Again, I kind of choke a little bit on the dollar amount," he said. "But this is what we need to do to hold somebody accountable to do that."
Councilman Charles Manne suggested that hiring a consultant would demonstrate the council’s seriousness about helping seniors.
"If that means scrapping $10,000 together to put some meaningful events together," Manne said, "then I’m in for $10,000."
Two senior citizens spoke during the public comment portion of the discussion. They opposed spending the money but asked that the town hall meetings be scheduled during a time and at a place that seniors would be able to attend — such as in the morning and on a weekend at the Tracy Transit Station.
Scarlata noted that the city doesn’t have to spend the $10,000. The vote simply authorizes the city staff to use the funds if an appropriate consultant is found.
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