By Hub City Times staff
MARSHFIELD — For the second time in as many weeks, Marshfield aldermen have said “no” to funding for the city’s domestic abuse organization.
The Common Council voted 7-3 April 10 against donating up to $40,000 to the Personal Development Center (PDC), which had asked the city on March 27 for $80,000 to cover the costs associated with the acquisition of the former Marshfield transitional homeless shelter.
After rescinding its original denial of that amount, the council voted down a proposal by Alderman Ed Wagner to match – dollar for dollar – any amount of fundraising by PDC, up to the $40,000 level or half the originally requested amount.
The council also rejected Wagner’s idea to create a task force to consider a formal process for handling funding requests from nonprofit organizations.
“The biggest problem we’ve got is we’re shooting from the hip every time somebody asks us for money, and we don’t have a set of parameters by which we can decide who gets money and who doesn’t or if anybody gets money at all,” said Wagner.
Mayor Chris Meyer suggested the city buy the property for PDC, then lease it back to them.
“That does a number of things: 1. We are not giving the organization anything. We’re keeping the land (and) $80,000 is an allocation for the city; 2. By having access and ownership of the land, it would provide the common council a means to have a say in the future happenings of that facility, should PDC move on to another facility and it be sold to somebody else… I thought that it was a really interesting model. Our hockey association is a building that sits on ground that they do not own; the ground that the building sits on is owned by the Fair Association. The Fair Association operates a fair on ground that we own, and we lease back to them.
“So, this is a model that we’ve done before for organizations like this and it is something that we did not discuss two weeks ago, and I think it warrants some discussion. If we are not willing to look at using a committee to make the recommendation back to the council and how to allocate funding for these nonprofits, and I would encourage you to still look at that because I think that this is an issue that is going to come up again and again.”
Once again, the mayor urged the council to do something for PDC.
“We take advantage of this organization; we rely on it in this community,” said Meyer. “Our police department works hand in hand with them, and I think that this is one of those moral things to me that it’s just important that we make sure that we’ve covered all of the bases before we move on.”
PDC recently announced it was acquiring the former transitional homeless shelter once operated by the St. Vincent DePaul Outreach Center and closed on the shelter property April 5. A community fundraising campaign has already begun to assist the agency with getting the new location ready with modifications for increased security.
PDC Director Renee Schulz said a federal grant of $175,000 will cover those renovations, but she said her organization will need another $150,000 a year in operational expenses – mainly for around-the-clock staff members.
Mayor Meyer’s final meeting
In an ironic twist of fate, Chris Meyer, in his last meeting as Marshfield Mayor, cast, not one, but two votes to break ties to get the funding request to the council floor for a vote. He broke a tie vote that rescinded the council’s original denial of the funding, and he voted in favor of the council considering the dollar-for-dollar match proposal from Alderman Wagner. Ultimately, Aldermen voted 7-3 against the PDC funding – essentially the same vote as last month – with the addition of Mike Feirer, who did not attend the previous meeting, in the “yes” column.
A tie-breaking vote by the Mayor almost never happens in Marshfield, which has a weak mayor-strong council form of government, meaning the mayor only votes to break ties. The Council ultimately votes on every decision made, and the city administrator runs the day-to-day operations from City Hall.
Meyer wrapped up his tenure last night as the longest-serving mayor in Marshfield history, holding five terms.
“This has been just an incredible honor the last ten years,” said Meyer. “This is my hometown. I grew up here. I joke that I grew up right next to the Marshfield Clinic, today I work at the Marshfield Clinic, and I’ll probably be buried on the other side of the Marshfield Clinic, when my time comes.
“But, one thing that I’ll be most proud of will have been spending 10 years as mayor of my hometown.”
Meyer will hand the gavel over to Bob McManus on April 17.