Social Services Way Station

Melissa Denton hands some sheets to Joe Licano during a stay at the Way Station. The Council of Community Services operates several social services around Gillette, including the Way Station homeless shelter, Food Pantry, Soup Kitchen and other initiatives.

When it comes to funding social service agencies and other nonprofit organizations for fiscal year 2020-2021, the Campbell County Commissioners are sticking tightly to their budget message: hold the line.

The commissioners met this week to discuss funding requests for the upcoming fiscal year. The organizations that kept their requests the same as last year’s will receive what they requested. The groups that asked for more will not.

The Council of Community Services requested $80,000 but will get $35,000, the same as it did this fiscal year.

Commissioner Rusty Bell said he expects the agency to come to the county in the upcoming months to ask for more money, which he is OK with. He believes that increasing funding now is not the right message to send.

“We don’t know the impact of all this right now,” he said about the local impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. “If they need more money, they know where to come and ask.”

“If we’re going to give more, we have to figure out where we’re going to take away (from),” said Commissioner Colleen Faber.

Commissioner Del Shelstad said the CARE Board, which makes recommendations on funding nonprofits, has recommended that if the county decides to cut funding for a group, it should take that money and give it to the Council of Community Services.

There are quite a few organizations that also have lost United Way funding and are asking for more from the county. But Bell said the county, which funds social services with revenues from the Optional 1% Sales Tax, should not replace United Way funding, which came from private donations.

The Boys & Girls Club of Campbell County requested $70,000 but will receive $49,500. The YES House will get $315,000, slightly down from its request of $330,000.

The Salvation Army, which hasn’t asked for county money in recent years, requested $25,000. Commissioners voted to deny the request because they believed it duplicates services that are offered by other organizations, including the Council of Community Services. Bell said he’d rather see the $25,000 go to that agency.

“This may end up being something that we see a huge need for, depending on how things shake out,” Faber said.

Gillette Main Street will be getting $5,000. Shelstad and Faber were in favor of not funding the organization next fiscal year. Faber said although she loves shopping downtown, “I’d rather see (this money) go to the Council of Community Services.”

Commission Chairman D.G. Reardon said although he understands that Gillette Main Street isn’t a social service agency, it still plays an important role in the community.

“I do understand what these guys are trying to do,” he said. “They bring a lot of people to downtown.”

“Show me a town whose main street is boarded up, and I’ll show you a town that’s dying,” said county administrative director Carol Seeger.

The AVA Community Art Center requested $20,000, up from the $8,000 it received this year.

“I like AVA, but I feel like this is one that could be rolled back,” Faber said.

The commissioners decided to cut AVA’s funding to $4,000. In the past, the commissioners have required AVA to spend county money on scholarships. But because the county is cutting AVA’s funding, it will allow the center to spend the money as it sees fit.

“It doesn’t do any good to tie it to scholarships if you can’t pay your light bill,” Seeger said.

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