February 28, 2024

Jasper County to pay more rent for Monroe congregate meal site

The Gathering Place will receive $400 per month, but elderly nutrition is monitoring efficiency

By Feb. 1, 2024, Jasper County Elderly Nutrition will be operating its congregate meals program for Monroe residents at The Gathering Place.

Elderly nutrition received authorization from the board of supervisors on Jan. 16 to increase the county’s rent payments to The Gathering Place from $200 per month to $400 per month in order to use the facility for congregate meals, so long as attendance is high enough to justify the increased rate.

Kelli Van Manen, program director for Jasper County Elderly Nutrition, told the board of supervisors she would monitor the amount of attendees until June to determine if the meal site is a wise investment, a sentiment that pleased the fiscally conservative supervisors. Van Manen is looking forward to the new site.

“I really would like to see a site there,” Van Manen said.

The original contract with The Gathering Place was approved in November 2023 at $200 per month. Staff indicated to Van Manen at the time they needed $300 in rent; the county’s portion would cover the bulk, but it was requested the Monroe City Council create a 28E agreement to pay $100 per month for its portion.

“I sent it down to The Gathering Place. Didn’t get it back so I checked in and they had people who apparently were not involved in the original $300. (They) had questions and just were doing some more research into things,” Van Manen said, noting the owners were going to reach out to council for more financial support.

In total, the owners are requesting $500 per month in rent, but, again, the county would pay for the bulk of it while the city council in Monroe pays the $100 via a 28E agreement. Van Manen was hoping to keep the county rate at $200 because she does not know how well attended the meal site will be.

“I do have about 15 people who have indicated they will come,” she said. “They filled out the application. But filling out the application doesn’t get them in the door. They got a lot of great things going there. It’s a beautiful site. I really want us to try a program there. They have volunteers running programs.”

Which would help alleviate county staff time. Van Manen said the increased rent could open up a can of worms at the Colfax site, which is demanding less rent. She anticipates Colfax will come to the county wanting more rent. If The Gathering Place has these expenses, she said, so does Colfax.

By June 30, Van Manen hopes to report to the board of supervisors on the progress of the Monroe meal site and whether it has proven successful.

“If we end up with the same four, then we haven’t gained anything,” she said. “Or if all of a sudden they’re wanting more from us and my staff and I need to provide more staff and my expenses go up. I have to weigh that. I want to be financially responsible. Big picture, $200 extra a month is small but it does add up.”

Supervisor Doug Cupples said a benefit of using The Gathering Place is the venue utilizes a lot of self-promotion, which could benefit elderly nutrition, too. Supervisor Brandon Talsma had no problem with the rent increase and praised Van Manen for her work running a very conservative program.

“We do appreciate how much work and effort you put into it,” Talsma said. “…If it works I think it would be a phenomenal complement to congregate meals and Kelli’s program. I guess you kind of got a nice little five-month trial period.”

Christopher Braunschweig

Christopher Braunschweig

Christopher Braunschweig has a strong passion for community journalism and covers city council, school board, politics and general news in Newton, Iowa and Jasper County.