COVINGTON, La. -- The St. Tammany Council on Aging, also known as C.O.A.S.T., is hoping recent changes to its operations will stir up support for the organization, instead of controversy.
C.O.A.S.T. provides transportation, home services, meals and social activities for the parish’s seniors and their caretakers.
The parish council is set to consider an agreement tied to the organization’s funding at a meeting Thursday, but not before hearing more about C.O.A.S.T.’s future plans.
There's no disputing several of the seven C.O.A.S.T. senior centers need work. Agency leaders say they have found new locations for the centers in Covington and Lacombe and plan to do the same for others.
But they also say those efforts have been compromised because of attacks from the community and some elected officials.
“We've been under extreme pressure,” said C.O.A.S.T. Executive Director Mary Toti, “For the entire year, there have been external issues and external situations that have affected our agency, and we are greatly concerned that if they don't stop, our agency will be crippled."
"We get complaints from the elderly and that's what we want solved," said Concerned Citizens of Lacombe Vice President Paula Borne.
The criticisms include the quality of the buildings and services offered by C.O.A.S.T. and the lack of action and answers from the organization regarding those issues. But board leaders say coast has been unfairly targeted and they want to send that message to the parish council at a meeting Thursday.
“Three-fourths of it has been unjust, unnecessary and non-factual," said C.O.A.S.T. Board President Pastor Kathleen Javery-Bacon. "Not given the opportunity to speak about who we are, what we have done and what we are doing."
The councilman most critical of C.O.A.S.T. to date, Jake Groby, was unavailable for an on-camera interview, but said Thursday's meeting is not to attack the organization, but to give it a chance to put public concerns to bed.
Groby, and Concerned Citizens of Lacombe and St. Tammany, say if new buildings and programs are being developed, that's a step in the right direction.
"If C.O.A.S.T. takes this approach and does what they're supposed to do, we will be right behind them supporting them," CCST President Rick Franzo said.
And it's a step forward everyone says they want.