Elliot Lake will extend its Age Friendly Delivers program for another 30 days as city staff looks at ways to address complaints of competing services that purchase and deliver food items.
The decision came at Monday night's virtual city council meeting after city business owner Andrew Young complained that Age Friendly Delivers, carried out with staffing by members of the city's recreation department, is hurting his business.
Young, owner of the FireSide Classic Grill and FireSide Food Shop, says the city program is unfair because the program providing grocery shopping and delivery for citizens of Elliot Lake, affects FireSide Food Shop and other food delivery companies in the city.
However, CAO Daniel Gagnon says the program aims to assist the most vulnerable in the community who have no way to get the groceries they need, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Councillor Chris Patrie suggested council should invite the food delivery businesses to explain ways the city program amounts to taxpayer-subsidized competition for them.
Unlike the private companies which charge delivery fees for their food products, Elliot Lake's service provides shopping and delivery for basic food and personal hygiene products for people over 70, at no charge.
"They aren't people that would be jumping on the niche being offered by the FireSide," said Mayor Dan Marchisella.
"By looking at having to pay $10 for your pickup fee, that's a day's groceries for some people.
"As a councillor in a municipality where we're looking at such a large, vulnerable sector, it is our duty to assure the health and safety and well-being of our residents, all of our residents," the mayor concluded.
Coun. Patrie said he was disappointed the mayor decided to put Age Friendly Delivers back into effect without council having a chance to discuss it.
"We're talking about a multitude of staff that have to do this. This isn't just one person and these are extremely high-paying jobs.
"If the staff would come forward and bring us something that is more financially palatable, I would absolutely interested in discussing that," Patrie concluded.
Coun. Sandy Finamore said it's important to make sure when council eventually decides to end the program, there are safety guards in place and alternatives provided to make sure seniors who need the support get it.
Council takes another look at Age Friendly Delivers next month.