ST. CLAIRSVILLE – Dwayne Pielech plans to step down as director of senior services for Belmont County, having achieved his goal of leading the agency by adapting to a new building, modernizing services and maintaining the trust of senior clients during a difficult time.
Since taking the job in late winter 2020, he has come across Pielech leading the agency during much of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“By the time the pandemic was starting, I had a lot of goals and things (the commissioners) wanted me to accomplish, and I’m very happy,” he said.
Staff duties were changed or reassigned to continue providing services and comfort to the elderly while the 10 senior centers were closed. Transportation and meal preparation and delivery did not stall either.
âLast year we successfully produced and distributed 260,000 hot meals delivered to homesâ he said, adding that computers were placed in all delivery trucks. âWe were successful in running the department during the pandemic, not only making sure we didn’t have an outbreak at the agency, which would have disrupted many of our services like our kitchen and medical driver program, but our the elderly.”
Pielech said the county would not pay him a retirement fund and that he would not retire but would return to work in the private sector.
“I really appreciate the opportunity to work with (the county) to help them get through the pandemic and to work with the many good people in the department”, Pielech said.
He added that the Belmont County Board of Commissioners had already started the interview process to find their replacement. Pielech said the next challenge will be keeping staff and seniors healthy and safe.
“Any problem that the pandemic could pose internally could potentially disrupt our services, and 1,200 people a day depend on our breakfasts and we cannot take the risk of putting that at risk”, he said, adding that meal deliveries also serve as security checks. âThe pandemic will continue to pose challenges in the future. “
Another challenge will be to expand services to the elderly where possible. He added that the next generation of seniors might have different preferences for activities, such as running a computer. Other older people may need help getting blood tests or getting direct services.
âIn five to ten years, we may have to evolve. Today we make 1200 meals a day, we transport people for medical appointments, we have 10 large centers for seniors. â¦ Where should we be in 5 to 10 years? “ he said.
Commissioners meet with candidates for the post of director.
“Dwayne did a really good job,” said Commissioner JP Dutton. âIt’s not an ordinary time since Dwayne started. He did a phenomenal job.
There are no immediate plans to select a new director.
“This is really the start of the process”, said Dutton.
There have been rumors that Elderly Services is merging with the county’s Department of Employment and Family Services.
“It comes up from time to time in the discussions” Dutton said, adding that there were no concrete plans for a merger.
In the Nov. 2 election, constituents in the county will decide whether or not to pass a $ 1 million tax for seniors’ services. Pielech said there was no reason to worry that the tax funds could be spent on anything other than services for the elderly.
âThis levy represents 40% of the annual budget. This levy is vital for the functioning of this agency â, Pielech said. âIt’s very restrictive on how this money can be spent. It simply must be spent for the welfare of the elderly to keep them in their homes. Voters in Belmont County have always been very supportive of this levy. â¦ There are a lot of good things happening that this levy is funding.
“We have one of the best senior service programs in the state of Ohio,” said Dutton. “We have many things to be proud of in our senior service programs, and it has a lot to do with the levies that are borne by residents of Belmont County.”