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Funding for VOA, trails, recreation among proposed changes | News

SHERIDAN A $25,000 placeholder for a contract with Volunteers of America is among budget amendments being considered by the Sheridan City Council this year.

The allotment was suggested by Councilor Clint Beaver at a May 23 town council meeting. On May 2 and 3, Beaver received two letters from VOA’s chief operating officer, Heath Steel, detailing services the organization could provide to the city.

The first request was for a $25,000 annual contract “to prevent homelessness in the community,” Steel said.

The requested dollars would help fund the VOA’s Homeless Outreach Program, which provides direct financial support to residents who are homeless or at risk of becoming homeless, Steel said. The program provides emergency shelter, food, clothing and transportation to homeless people. In fiscal year 2021, the program served 1,290 individuals and 692 households.

The second request was for a $25,000 annual contract “to support at-risk youth in the community,” Steel said.

The requested dollars would help fund VOA’s independent living program, which provides people ages 14 to 24 with case managers who assess needs, provide accountability and support academic success. The independent living program also offers a day center, which provides youth with free access to laundry, shower and kitchen facilities as well as computers and Wi-Fi. In fiscal year 2021, 81 youth at risk were served by the program, Steel said.

It remains to be determined which of the two contracts the city will pursue, if any, Beaver said.

During Monday’s discussion, advisers said they saw the value of the services offered by the VOA, but had some concerns.

“It looks like they have great programs, (but) I’m just worried that it’s a bit of a Pandora’s box,” adviser Aaron Linden said. “We don’t necessarily contract with a lot of 501(c)3s, and if we do it with just one, how many others might ask us? That’s my only concern at this point.

Councilwoman Kristen Jennings said she would like to see the VOA’s financial information before committing city dollars.

“If we want to move forward with something like this, I’d like to see the current financials,” Jennings said. “Looking at their 2019 financial statements…they had pretty significant cash at that time, and I guess I’d like to see…where they are now.”

The council agreed to listen to a presentation on the proposed contracts before making any decisions.

In addition to the VOA discussion, Councilor Jacob Martin suggested allocating more funding to recreation, specifically $15,000 for the purchase of Starpath a glossy spray-on surface for driveways.

Martin argued that Starpath was a “cost effective and aesthetically pleasing way to light our pathways at night”. He recommends the city purchase and apply Starpath to the trail system around Sam Mavrakis Pond to see how well it works and how the community responds to it. If successful, Starpath could be applied to other city trails, Martin said.

“I think people would really appreciate it and it would be a great addition to our trail system,” Martin said.

Martin also recommended an allocation of $10,000 for the creation of an additional Frisbee golf course in South Park. The city currently has a nine-hole course at Emerson Park, which was established in 2011.

City Council will continue discussions on budget changes in the coming weeks. The preliminary budget for fiscal year 2023 includes forecast revenues of $46.97 million and forecast appropriations of $46.49 million. All spending recommended in the budget is pre-decision and could change between now and final budget approval depending on council discussions, City Administrator Stuart McRae said.