Even in a recession, sometimes the government feels generous.
When the Payson Senior Center recently came to the Star Valley town council with an open hand, the council reached back and donated offering to help fund a senior transportation program and now Meals on Wheels.
Holding back tears after the approval, Senior Center Director Joanne Conlin said the center’s employees and users are grateful for the town’s support.
Everyday, the senior center cooks up and delivers 14 meals to senior citizens living in Star Valley who can otherwise not cook for themselves.
Per week, it costs the center $561 to distribute these meals in Star Valley on top of the hundred or more Payson residents it serves.
At the Aug. 17 council meeting, Conlin asked the Star Valley council to consider donating to the program, which delivers meals to people who would otherwise not eat a nutritious meal.
“They people cannot cook for themselves,” she said. They have either arthritis, dementia, Alzheimer or a combination thereof and “you wouldn’t want them in the kitchen.”
Star Valley Town Manager/Attorney Tm Grier said he did a “sophisticated analysis” of the town’s budget and determined the town can afford to support the program.
“You have a budget that is in good shape,” he said.
Currently, the town’s two bank accounts hold $2.6 million collectively. One million of that is set-aside for a rainy day fund.
Grier warned the council that if they fund part of the Meals On Wheels program this year, they would likely have to fund it in years to come.
Councilor George Binney said while he supports the idea of the program he doesn’t believe government should fund it.
Binney was one of three councilors to vote against funding Meals On Wheels Tuesday night.
Despite his objections, the council voted to give the program $5,000 to $6,000 every quarter for the next year.
“I don’t want to see old people go hungry, but people don’t plan for the future and they expect me to pay for it and clean up their mess,” Binney said.
“Politicians have a terrible way of saying no.”
Binney added that most Star Valley residents could use a hand and suggested the town give each of its 1,097 households $1,000.
Mayor Bill Rappaport said he supported Binney’s idea although it is not legal.
“I like the idea of giving every citizen money back,” he said.
“I wish we could do something for all the other residents as well.”
Grier said the gift clause prohibits government entities from giving money away.
Councilor Gary Coon said he was in favor of the program and couldn’t image voting against its funding.
“I think it is our duty to take care of our people in this town,” he said.
“Whatever it takes, you don’t let people go to bed hungry.”
Besides Binney, Coon and Councilor Paty Henderson voted no on the resolution.
Conlin said with the council’s $20,000 to $24,000 in annual funding, they can expand the program to nearly 25 residents.
“Our intent is to help as many people as we can,” she said.