SOCORRO COUNTY, N.M. (KRQE) – New Mexico is working to provide services at senior centers in Socorro County after the county resorted to using jail inmates to prepare food for the seniors. Socorro County Manager Michael Hawkes said they asked the state for help operating the senior centers when they were running tight on money.

“About two years ago we started to sound the alarm saying this is getting way out of hand. We have spent $1.2 million over the last three years in order to break even on the services we’re providing,” said Hawkes.

The state noticed that Socorro County had an outside food contractor but cut ties with the contractor in order to save money. Ultimately, the county brought in jail trustees to prepare the seniors’ food and that’s when they got a call from the Non-Metro Area Agency on Aging issuing them a termination of contract.

Monica Abeita with North Central New Mexico Economic Development District said they’re working closely with cities in Socorro County as they make transitions after terminating the contract. During the transition, the senior centers may be closed.

In the wake of this incident, Non-Metro Area Agency on Aging will provide technical assistance and training to the new providers and will work with them to develop innovative programming for seniors.