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 kcleveland@cabinet.com.