Rifle asked to pay more for senior meals program

Kitchen workers prepare a Thanksgiving meal for the Rifle Senior Center in 2021.
Ray K. Erku/Citizen Telegram

Inflated food prices are causing meals offered through the Rifle Senior Center Meal Program to cost more for the city of Rifle, an official said.

Rifle Senior Center Director Tami Sours told Rifle City Council on Wednesday these factors mean the city is obligated to appropriate an additional $10,609 toward the service.

The Rifle Senior Center Meal Program offers free hot meals to seniors in Rifle, as well as Parachute, Silt and New Castle. From July 2021 to April, the service fed 10,926 clients in all cities combined.

“There are seniors that go to have a meal every day,” Sours said.

The service is also partnered through Garfield County, which contractually provides a meal reimbursement rate of $10.25. But, over the past 10 months, average senior meal costs have risen to $11.22 per meal, according to city documents.

Since New Castle, Silt and Parachute aren’t contractually obligated to cover any extra costs incurred after the county’s reimbursement rate is reached, that means Rifle is covering an extra 97 cents per meal.

Rifle City Council Member Clint Hostettler questioned why the city is covering the extra costs.

“We’re paying the extra costs for all three towns,” Rifle City Council member Clint Hostettler said.

Sours said the terms of this current agreement were reached in the 2021-2022 contract. Partnering cities used to split the difference, but Rifle City Council decided to take on any extra expenses because they were minimal, Rifle City Attorney Jim Neu said.

With the contract now up for renewal this summer, Rifle has to decide if it wants to continue being the sole agent paying extra for each meal. The added 97 cents for each meal would hike up the annual cost for Rifle to $12,718.

“I’m OK with $12,000,” Hostettler said. “But I’m worried about it going up.”

Meanwhile, the county covers about 92% of costs associated with the senior meals program, with a current annual cap set at $169,125. The county has offered a slight annual cap bump — $175,223 — for the 2022-2023 contract renewal.

“I think the county’s pretty fixed on what money they have for this program,” Neu said. “And, from their perspective, they think they’re contributing plenty.”

Rifle City Council proposed making an amendment to a new contract, saying it can speak with partnering towns about them also covering increasing costs for meals.

“We can go back to the county for a negotiated price per meal,” Sours said.  

The city of Rifle hopes to approve a negotiated Senior Meals Program contract with partnering entities with the inclusion of an escalation clause by July.

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