Officials worry there’s a limit to voters’ generosity
MILFORD – Three agencies that support veterans, the homeless and hospice services will not be included in the town’s social service warrant article for 2017.
Every year, the town welfare department asks for $35,000, to be divided among more than a dozen agencies.
This year, the warrant article will stay at $35,000, although welfare officials told selectmen on Dec. 12 that the need for services is growing and that they had wanted to ask for $50,000.
They said they didn’t do that because they’re concerned that if voters rejected the $50,000, agencies would get nothing from Milford.
The three agencies that would have received contributions from Milford from a $50,000 warrant article are Harbor Homes, which provides services for veterans and the homeless; Milford Regional Counseling, which provides mental health services; and Home Health and Hospice, a visiting nurse and hospice agency.
One member of the town’s Welfare Committee told the board the agencies help prevent problems before they become serious.
If the town doesn’t take care of the elderly and young people, Claire Holston said, "You’re going to find them on the street or involved in things" that will cost the town more money.
Selectmen, who seemed supportive, wanted to know how the agencies were chosen.
Welfare Director Susan Drew said a point system is used that’s based on needs in five areas: senior citizens, juveniles, mental health, housing, and opioid prevention and treatment. Milford-based agencies are given more points, she said.
Selectman Gary Daniels suggested earlier this month that town officials should consider whether social services and recreation are among the essential services local government should provide. The town has been operating under a default budget for two years.
At the Dec. 12 meeting, he said he would support a $35,000 article, and, if possible, he would like the board to find additional money in the operating budget to put toward some of the needs the welfare team identified.
"Ironically, we’re dealing with the same things with the DPW, and you are part of the whole budget team," Daniels said. "I am very much aware there are needs that need to be addressed."
Selectman Kevin Federico noted that Keystone Hall, an alcoholism treatment center, says it spends more than $1 million on Milford residents, and that residents seem to be getting more than $4 million worth of services from all of the agencies.
"Thirty-five thousand dollars is a drop in the hat," he said.
Drew said later that the good news is that town voters have always given the social services warrant article strong support.
"The agencies just do amazing work," and it’s hard not to support them all, she said.
Kathy Cleveland can be reached at 673-3100 or firstname.lastname@example.org.