Local organizations went before the town council requesting financial help at a special meeting last Tuesday night. Although the town may not be able to be as generous as in previous years.
The organizations' presentations, according to town manager Fred Carpenter, were originally scheduled to be done over the course of three meetings. As the meetings were successively cancelled, Mayor Ken Murphy suggested they be combined into one meeting. As a result, representatives from organizations at the bottom of the list, waited nearly three hours to come to the podium.
Murphy was ill and could not attend the meeting. Vice Mayor Barbara Brewer called each spokesperson up to make a case before the council.
Among those organizations with high-dollar needs were the Payson Humane Society and the Payson Senior Center.
The Humane Society requested $60,000 for their animal impound program and $30,000 for their new building. Since the town rescinded its offer to buy the current building on McLane, the progress on the new building on Longhorn has been stalled.
"The town asked to buy the building, but that was not to happen," Board President Pat Boettcher said. "We will be putting the building on the market."
The arrangement for the $30,000 is that once the building sells, the money will be repaid to the town.
The $60,000 the society asked for is compensation for subsidizing the shelter and care of town animals.
"We have been subsidizing the town animal control program and we can't do that any longer," Boettcher said.
Rising costs to house, medicate and feed the animals along with a rapid increase in abandoned or animals at large brought in by the town's animal control officer, has put a financial strain on the shelter.
"We get 300 town animals a month," Boettcher said. "We are having a hard time breaking even."
Councilor Dick Reese posed a question about how much time animals had before they are euthanized and would decreasing that time save money.
"We don't kill them automatically," Boettcher said. "It may be 21 days or a little longer because we are an animal-oriented community. It would be an easy way to solve the problem but we work hard to keep the animals alive and to find homes for them."
After requesting between $6,000 to $8,000 in the two previous years, the Payson Senior Center, in "dire straits" according to Board President Elaine Drorbaugh, asked the council for $50,000 to keep them operating.
The shortfall, according to center treasurer Al Campeas is, in part, due to rising costs associated with their services in conjunction with inadequate funding and stringent regulations by the county.
Several members of the council inquired about exploring an alliance with other agencies, such as Payson Senior Circle, which is funded by Payson Regional Medical Center
"We don't serve the same people," Drorbaugh said.
"To work with the hospital group -- mixing all of this together. I don't know how it would come out," Senior center secretary Ruth Craig said.
The center provides in-house meals as well as meals on wheels for seniors on a donation basis. Regulations stipulate that they can only request a donation.
"We are lucky to get $1.10 for our meals on wheels," Campeas said. "They cost us $7.00 and the county pays one-third of that."
Campeas went on to state that without the town's help, the center may be out of money by June 30, 2004.
Time Out Shelter
Time Out Shelter Executive Director Darlene Curlee asked the town for the shelter's usual request of $10,000.
The shelter for women and children victims of domestic violence, is the only shelter of its kind with in a 100-mile radius and has seen a surge in demand for services.
"Law enforcement statistics state that 2,500 women in Gila County are abused every year," Curlee said. "Our shelter is between 85 and 100 percent full all the time."
Despite the budget cuts that many organizations are feeling, Time Out has continued to increase its range of residential and community services. The shelter has classes that are open to the public, a legal advocate, an in-house therapist, transitional housing and children and teen services.
"We are requesting $5,000 for operational costs and $5,000 for our teen and children's services," Curlee said.
The only comments from council were effusive praise for the organization.
The Rim Country Literacy Program
Although their initial funding request was $1,500 due to a miscommunication about the process, RCLP Director Susan Connell came to the podium and changed the request to $10,000.
"I would like to ask for $10,000 for learning materials," Connell said.
The organization, staffed by volunteers, projects they will serve over 200 individuals during the coming year. Programs the RCLP offers are basic education, GED classes, English as a second language and family literacy.
"In the year 2000, the illiteracy rate in the area was about 24 percent," Connell said. "Our students are workers in this community."
Connell went on to share several success stories resulting from the services offered by the program.
In a tough budget year, the council was given a lot to consider.
By Thursday's council meeting, all but Murphy had given Deputy Town Manager Glen Smith their suggestions for what they believed each organization should receive. Given that they all had differing numbers except for the Time Out Shelter, which got its full $10,000, it was decided to form a committee to meet this afternoon (Tuesday) at 2 p.m. to come up with specific recommendations.
Two organizations came up high and dry by the majority of council members, the Experimental Aircraft Association and the Payson Regional Housing Development. Because four of the six council members recommended that no money be given to them, the two organizations will not be considered by the committee.
The majority of councilors also voted to do away with the town's recycling program for the coming year.
Smith reiterated that not until the budget is done, will the organizations know exactly what dollar amount the town can offer them for the next fiscal year.