Wayland selectmen Monday night had no trouble coming to unanimous agreement on supporting funds for a new police officer and new firefighter/paramedic in the Fiscal Year 2014 budget, but supporting funds for WaylandCares was another story.
Selectmen were asked to consider a $102,000 initiative in the FY14 budget to fund WaylandCares, a youth substance abuse prevention program that has been funded by grant money during its tenure in Wayland.
In mid-2011, selectmen voted to create a WaylandCares Sustainability Advisory Committee tasked with examining the work of WaylandCares as well as ways to keep the organization going when its current grant funds run out in September 2013. The committee, member Deb Cohen said during the comment session Monday night, determined that WaylandCares is worth saving and that town funding was the most appropriate way to sustain it.
"We believe there is a need for WaylandCares," Cohen said, citing youth surveys that indicate reductions in Wayland teen drug and alcohol use during the WaylandCares era. "We believe WaylandCares has delivered value to the town."
The budget request for $102,000 would fund two, part-time positions. The plan is to continue seeking grant funding in addition to the town money.
Selectmen Steve Correia, John Bladon and Joe Nolan spoke up to express their support for the program as it is as well as their desire to see it continue. Several people in the audience, however, raised concerns primarily surrounding the availability and clarity of information about the organization's structure and finances.
Linda Segal asked what other sources of funding had been explored and questioned whether the town's $102,000 could be better spent on other projects. She said she respected the work of WaylandCares, but did not see a "compelling reason for the town budget to suddenly take this on.”
WaylandCares Director Heidi Heilman, however, said that the grant on which WaylandCares has been operating was intended to help the recipient lay the infrastructure for a long-term organization that would continue to exist with alternate funding once that grant ran out.
“It’s not something you piecemeal, it just doesn’t work that way, if you want to have the kind of results that we’re experiencing in Wayland," Heilman said.
When it came time for selectmen to vote on whether to include a WaylandCares budget item in the FY14 operating budget recommendation, board member Ed Collins spoke up to say he felt their vote on the topic was premature.
"Who really should be funding this?" Collins asked. "I think what we are being asked to do is rather premature. Whether it’s good or bad, I don’t know. What I know is we have a group of people here who want something, and they haven’t provided us with enough background information to support it."
Collins also pointed out that even if selectmen voted against recommending the budget initiative, petitioners could submit an article for the Town Meeting Warrant that would essentially accomplish the same thing.
A heated exchange among selectmen ensued and left the chair calling for order and carefully moderating each board members opportunity to talk.
Ultimately, selectmen voted 3-2, with Collins and Doug Leard casting the nay votes, to recommend the WaylandCares funding.
Selectmen also voted, this time unanimoulsy, to recommend budget initiatives that would add one new firefighter/paramedic and one new police officer to the town's rosters.