Funding for Fairview on May ballot
Cathy Garrity was a nurse at Beaumont Hospital, but she ended up homeless.
"I slept in my car," she told the Monroe County Board of Commissioners Thursday. "If it hadn’t been for Fairview, I don’t know what I would have done."
Ms. Garrity is just one of hundreds of examples of success Fairview has had in helping those who need it the most. This spring, county residents will decide if they want to help the institution at 3604 S. Custer Rd. via ballot.
"Fairview, for me, was a lifesaving move," Ms. Garrity said before the board voted to approve the agency’s request to ask for a countywide millage to help keep the facility open.
"I recuperated there. My health improved there," she said. "I have a nice apartment now. I’m working to be independent. I’ve started my own business. But without Fairview I’d still be on the street. You wouldn’t think that could happen to a nurse. I never thought it would happen to me. It can happen to anyone."
Her story silenced a packed commissioners’ chambers Thursday. And it swayed commissioners, too.
"There are obviously a lot more issues here than this millage," Commissioner Albert Potratz said. "I am torn. I listened to this young lady; she brought tears to my eyes. She is an educated woman. It’s almost an impossibility what happened to her – and it happened. We need to help these people."
But the board is between the proverbial rock and hard place with finances. Layoffs are imminent. Next year’s budget – despite cuts by many departments and 44 positions being eliminated – is still more than $4 million in the red.
A report on Fairview by the finance department shows that closing the facility will save the county about $259,000 the first year. Annually, the county general fund contributes about $600,000 a year to keep the infirmary open.
"That’s a number that at the end of the day we can’t overlook," Commissioner J. Henry Lievens said. "We have a moral responsibility and a financial responsibility."
The commissioners seemed prepared to support the facility and the Friends of Fairview volunteer’s request to put the matter before voters, but there was some disagreement as to how long county funding should remain in place.
Commissioner Floreine Mentel, who has championed Fairview’s cause throughout these budget talks, made a motion to put the issue on the May ballot, but also to provide funding for up to eight months in 2010.
A majority of the panel seemed interested only in funding the facility for six months and Mrs. Mentel amended her request "in order to get the matter on the ballot," she said after the meeting.
It’s still not clear exactly what the millage request will be. A memo from Laura Papenhagen, Fairview’s director, suggests that the tax request would be for .125 mills, roughly $8 a year for the owner of a $150,000 home.
But Commissioner Mentel Thursday night said she thought the agency would ask for just .1 mill. Voters will get a chance to decide in May regardless of what the agency asks for. For Commissioner R. LaMar Frederick, the matter is simple.
"The mere image of 36 people standing along side M-50 with their goods and belongings and nowhere to go is absolutely appalling," he said. "We have a social obligation to these people. You will find me a vigorous advocate" for Fairview. http://www.monroenews.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20091120/NEWS01/711209975/-1/NEWS