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Mount Carmel BMA approves cut to Senior Center contribution

Jamey Vicars • Updated Jun 19, 2019 at 9:05 AM

MOUNT CARMEL — In a special called budget meeting Tuesday, the Board of Mayor and Aldermen approved a reduction in funding for the town’s Senior Center proposed on June 4. The contribution approved was $17,000, a cut from the first proposed $25,000.

After much debate during the meeting two weeks ago, a compromise of $17,000 was proposed as a middle ground between the figures suggested by BMA members. The meeting on Tuesday was to hear any further discussion and vote on the contribution.

A main concern of the Senior Center about the proposed funding cut is that it would delay the purchase of a new handicapped accessible van, for which the center had already been saving. Many town residents and Senior Center members voiced their opinions about the reduction, with several stating this was their first time attending a BMA meeting.

“The van we have now is not equipped as a handicap van, and as I get older it is harder and harder to get in that van,” said Caroline Vaughn. “Yes, we have that money in the bank, but it is being saved for a handicap van. When we go someplace, we won’t have to worry that one of our members may trip, and the one standing there cannot catch them and they’re going to fall.”

The BMA was divided about the proposal.

“If it was an emergency, I could understand it, but it’s not. Not when you have $70,000 in the bank, it’s not an emergency,” Alderman Jim Gilliam said.

“You should be happy with what we give you,” Alderman Pat Stilwell said.

“I’d like to say that I support the senior citizens, and I think it’s a shame what we’re doing here,” Vice Mayor Jennifer Williams said. “We had a budget that had a surplus. We didn’t have a budget that had a deficit where we had to cut the senior citizens. I think it looks really bad on us as a governing body to single out this group.”

Mayor Chris Jones made a motion to restore the contribution to $25,000, but the vote ended in a 3-3 tie. Williams and Alderman Carl Wolfe voted with Jones, while Gilliam, Stilwell and Alderman Steven McLain were opposed.

Gilliam tried to make a motion to lower the contribution even further to $8,000, but there was no second.

The vote to pass the $17,000 contribution was passed with only Jones voting against it.

“If something comes up, and you all come to the point of buying a van and lack $4,000 or $5,000, or something like that, you can always come back to the town and ask for additional funding to make up for it. It’s not always set in concrete,” Jones said.

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