Public shows support for Department of Human Services

Marlborough – More than 50 people turned out for the Marlborough City Council meeting May 24. Many came to show support for restoring the Department of Human Services that was cut from the fiscal year 2011 budget during the May 10 meeting.

“This function is needed now more than ever,” City Councilor Robert Seymour said. “People are struggling, simply put. The population needing services span the demographic spectrum. In the case of humans services we are talking about a person’s welfare.”

“Nobody questions the need,” City Councilor Steven Levy said. “The actions we took last week were to initiate a conversation.” Several councilors feel a conversation on the operations of the Department of Human Services is long overdue.

“We’ve been unable to sit down with the mayor for feedback,” Levy said, airing concern about the inability to directly address council questions on the operations of the department. “We are now at a point to have that conversation,” Levy said. “All I’m asking for is that conversation.”

A communication from Mayor Nancy Stevens May 20 chides the council for not approving the budget line item funding the department.

“Eliminating the department does not eliminate the need,” Stevens said in her letter to the council. “This decision was shortsighted and will have devastating eff ects on the residents who rely on these services each and everyday. It’s about unemployment, housing, literacy, child care and crisis intervention; It’s about hunger and substance abuse and reaching out to adolescents and teens; and, it’s about advocacy for those most at risk.”

According to City Councilor Paul Ferro, “services provided by the Department of Human Services were once filled by community volunteers. These volunteer services have since become a municipal position with a $64,000 salary and benefits.” Ferro cited 15 communities in the commonwealth with a total population of one million residents including Hudson, Worcester, North Attleboro, Lowell, Lawrence and Fall River

Not one has a human services agency,” Ferro said. “Are all these communities letting one million people fall through the cracks?

“When the dust settles, any rational person must question why we pay $90,000 to a department. We need a better way, this is not a department we need to levy taxes to fund,” Ferro said. “I will not support this budget.”

“I am saddened by the way the mayor has refused to look at alternatives,” City Councilor Patricia Pope said. “It is the mayor who is playing politics here.”

Citing a communication from Father Michael MacEwen of Immaculate Conception Catholic Church reproving the council for the elimination of the department and ignoring the work of Director of the Human Services Department Rosalind Baker. Pope said

“It is truly disheartening to see a Catholic priest use his position to play politics,” Pope said.

City Councilor Edward Clancy shared a personal story of his interactions with Baker in a grocery store. She returned to her office one evening in order to address a department issue brought to her attention, rather than going home to her family.

“This is not a public servant who works nine to five,” Clancy said. In response, Ferro said, “being a good person doesn’t mean you get a $90,000 salary.”

Several councilors expressed concern about the way in which city finances were voted. “The process wasn’t good,” City Councilor Donald Landinterpreted ers said. “I hope we learned a lesson. It was a disservice to the citizens of Marlborough.” Landers said he and two other council members were unaware that at 9:45 p.m.the council was to vote on fiscal issues rather than meeting later in the week.

“We are not Haverhill; we are not Worcester, we are not Lowell; we are Marlborough and we take care of people,” City Councilor Peter Juairesaid and got a round of applause from the public.

A motion to approve $31,640 in salary and offic e supplie s for a six-month funding of the department was approved, again with enthusiastic applause from the public. Ferro and City Councilor Matt Elder voted against the motion.

Other action taken by the council included: an eff ort to secure funding for damage to the runway at Marlborough Airport stemming from a visit from President Barack Obama April 1; funding nearly $62,000for police retirement, and $7,600 in firefighter overtime.

Councilor Joseph Delano was not present at the meeting May 24.

Short URL: http://www.communityadvocate.com/?p=7179

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