MCCOG board asks state to put people before process

Two-picture panorama of the Oct. 24 meeting of the Mid-Columbia Council of Governments

Mid-Columbia Council of Governments, whose board members recently voted to disband,  met Tuesday to further decide on where the agencies currently operating under the MCCOG umbrella will be transferred. The big discussion was about the Area Agency on Aging, which helps with meals and other services for seniors. The heart of the problem is that the agency that everyone agrees would be the best fit to take over supervision of the Area Agency on Aging is the Greater Oregon Behavioral Health Inc., known as GOBHI. They’re based in The Dalles, have a large staff and budget and could not only keep the programs running but could expand them to serve more local residents.

GOBHI wants the program, the AAA staff want GOBHI to have the program and the MCCOG board even considered staying on as a board and contracting with GOBHI to insure that they get to operate the program, but representatives of the State Unit on Aging at the meeting said that would not be allowed.

Instead, they said they have to follow a three-tiered system for choosing which agency would operate AAA. In the first tier are the five individual counties that make up MCCOG. MCCOG itself and two other councils of governments, one based in Bend and another based in Salem, neither of which currently operate a AAA. None of the five counties want to take that on and today is the deadline for either of the other councils of government to declare their willingness, which is unlikely.

State and federal regulation say that beyond that, other AAA agencies in the state have preference. The State Unit on Aging interprets that to mean that they should offer it to other AAAs before considering any other agencies, and the MCCOG board feels that it’s highly likely one of the other AAAs would grab it, operating the local unit at a distance and preventing the best suited agency from getting a chance.

Several members of the Senior Advisory Council spoke in favor of GOBHI, noting that having headquarters out of the area would require additional travel time and expense that would divert money that would be better used in providing services for local seniors.

The Dalles mayor Steve Lawrence, who serves on the MCCOG board said the state should instead treat it like a hiring decision where preference is given to veterans. All applicants should go into a pool, and if two applicants are otherwise tied in suitability then the veteran would have preference.

Ultimately the board voted to ask the state unit on aging to do just that, saying the focus should be on the needs of the people served rather than the bureaucratic process. Scott McKay, chair of the Senior Advisory Council, said that would agree with the council’s main priorities

“We want to be as local as possible and the second thing, I think we have consensus that we wanted to be as cost-effective as possible,” he said.

Kevin Campbell of GOBHI had this comment on their commitment to hire every one of the local AAA staffers if they are allowed to operate the agency


10 25 17 Kevin Campbell on current staff :19 … both are in Wheeler County.