By Adam Hocking
MARSHFIELD — Marshfield’s common council voted 6-1 not to approve a request from St. Vincent de Paul for $100,000 on Tuesday night. Alderpersons Ed Wagner, Alanna Feddick, and Tom Buttke were absent.
The vote by the council “indefinitely postpones” the funding request, though a council member could ask to bring the item back for discussion at a future meeting. St. Vincent de Paul is a nonprofit organization that provides numerous services to residents in need, including its thrift store, food pantry, shelter for the homeless, and free medical clinic.
“We help all the poor that comes to us,” said Jerald Lang, president of the St. Vincent de Paul board of directors.
The organization has recently invested about $600,000 to revamp the façade of its Central Avenue building by tuck pointing and painting brick, adding new signage, and installing large crosses that light up. A lift has also been installed inside the thrift store, ensuring accessibility to those who are not able to walk up stairs.
Kathy Dierickx, the manager of the thrift store, noted that $100,000 from the city could have helped make payments for work on the store’s exterior and ongoing improvements to its interior.
Dierickx said St. Vincent de Paul was able to finance the improvements it has made so far because the organization had previously set funds aside to build a new facility, which would have housed the food pantry and the free clinic. When that new building did not come to fruition, the money was instead used to revamp the thrift store and outreach center on Central Avenue.
Dierickx said that the St. Vincent de Paul’s board had to decide to either update the building or look at moving.
“We had to do something,” she said. She later added, “We had to preserve our building.”
Alderwoman Rebecca Spiros, the lone council member to support giving funds to St. Vincent’s, made passionate remarks at Tuesday’s meeting.
“When you don’t offer assistance to the neediest people in your city, I just have a different thought process on that I guess,” Spiros said. “I just actually don’t think it can even be measured, the contribution they make to this city.”
“I’m disgusted with the fact that we’re willing to give money to house animals, but we aren’t willing to give money to house and take care of the needs of the poorest people in this community,” Spiros said, citing the city’s past financial support of Marshfield Area Pet Shelter.
Mayor Chris Meyer responded to Spiros’ statement about the pet shelter, saying that it is the city’s legal obligation to care for stray animals, whereas Wood County is charged with “providing the services that reach out to underprivileged people.”
Alderman Peter Hendler said that he realized the good that St. Vincent De Paul does but that giving funds to the organization could lead to a long list of worthy organizations lining up to also ask for money. Hendler referenced the city’s ongoing work on its Capital Improvement Program, which lays out a plan for future city spending on capital projects, and how difficult it has been to design with the budgetary limitations that exist.
“I mean we just can’t do some of these things,” Hendler said. “Somebody, and I think that’s our job as a council, needs to stand up and say, “This is what we can and can’t do.’”
Alderman Mike Feirer echoed Hendler’s concerns, saying, “There’s at least 40 organizations in this town that could use a lot of money. … If we give to one, we’re going to have a list of people here (also asking for money).”
The city previously denied a separate grant request by St. Vincent De Paul to partake in the Façade Improvement Program, where businesses can receive funds from the city and Main Street Marshfield to refurbish the exterior of their buildings. That request was denied because St. Vincent De Paul is tax-exempt, and the city only made the program available to properties that could elevate property tax revenue through their improvements.
Lang said the city’ stance would not change St. Vincent’s plans for remodeling the interior of the thrift store.
“We’ll just wait until we accumulate enough money to finish our inside if we don’t get any money here (from the city),” Lang said.