Council hears from agencies seeking funding

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Tough budget year could mean cuts

By Tom Wilmoth

Several agencies hoping to be offered financial support in the city of Bedford’s upcoming budget appeared before City Council last Tuesday.

    “I’m not here to remind you of how tough times are,” noted Mary Jo Boone, executive director of the Bedford Area YMCA. But she did take the opportunity to tell council members about some of the services the organization is providing to the community. That service, she noted, includes running a fitness program for area middle and high school students in conjunction with Bedford area schools as well as taking over the Safe Haven program at Raintree Village from the American Red Cross at the first of this year.

    Boone said the YMCA invested some $50,000 in staff time toward the fitness for life program with area students “because it was the right thing to do.”  She added that when the Safe Haven program was going to be shut down because of a lack of funding, the Y  was  willing to  step in  and keep it running.

    Boone said the organization is committed to serving the residents of Bedford. “The YMCA has come so far over the past several years.”

    Last year the city cut in half most of its funding to outside agencies and at least one council member has questioned whether the city should be helping such agencies at all. Robert Cornell of Bedford Habitat for Humanity is hoping that isn’t the case.

     He  has asked the city to provide in-kind services including permits and connection fees to the homes Habitat builds, usually about one a year. Cornell said without Habitat’s work over the past several years there would be nine empty lots, instead of the new homes that have been built on them. He added those lots now generate additional tax revenue for the city.

    Shannon Walker of the Bedford Life Saving Crew also made that organization’s case for funding. He said that last year the 35 active volunteer members responded to some 2,200 emergency calls. He said the squad operates 24 hours a day, seven days a week, covering a 220 square mile area.

    Walker said the squad will be replacing an ambulance this year, and noted that donations are not reaching as high this year as they have in the past.

    Ira Doom represented Bedford Ride before council, asking for $15,000 in support. Traditionally the organization had been provided that amount from the city, but last year that was cut to $7,500. He said the goal of Bedford Ride is to make sure everyone in the community has access to medical care and that meant that last year the organization’s 160 volunteers drove some 175,000 miles. “We’re one of the few places that has non-emergency medical transportation for everyone who needs it,” he said. Doom also took the opportunity to praise Bedford Ride’s volunteers. “These people are truly dedicated,” he said.

    D-Day Memorial Foundation President William McIntosh said the Foundation has always been grateful for the support provided by the city. “I’m glad you have to wrestle with the issues and not me,” he said of the council’s task of deciding which organizations are worthy of funding.