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Alderman continues fight for added senior center funding

June 19, 2012

With 21 percent fewer federal dollars to work with than last year, the Common Council tonight unanimously approved reallocating Community Development Block Grant funds.

The reallocation was expected, given the recent revelation of the loss in block grant dollars in comparison to 2011. But one alderman made it clear he isn't in favor of one of the block recipients being forced into a budget crisis from here forward.

Alderman Peter Donegan asked fellow council members to "consider a different posture" toward the Hart Park Senior Center.

The center has relied heavily on block grant funds in the past. Last fall, when the city approved this year's operating budget, the center was expected to receive $105,362. That funding is now reduced to $83,600.

Donegan asked Mayor Kathy Ehley and City Administrator James Archambo to look at options to make up the funding loss and allow the center to operate at its existing level in 2013.

While it may be considered expansion of government - an often unpopular sentiment - Donegan would like to see the center become a city operation. The city contracts the management of the center to the YMCA.

The center also receives a portion of membership and programming fees, but the block grant funds will result in reduced staff time and canceled program, Director Merry Johnson told the Parks and Forestry Board this morning.

The city may be able to use block grant funds toward staffing the center if the employees were in-house, Donegan said.

He voted against the funding change last week at the Budget and Finance Committee, hoping staff could find some way within federal government regulations to move money around and help the center.

Realizing a cap on public services ties council members' hands, Donegan says its time to look toward future funding for the center.

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