NEWPORT -- A normally procedural vote on a funding request for the state's Community Development Block Grant program, or CDBG, became an unexpected source of debate during last Wednesday's City Council meeting when Mayor Stephen C. Waluk used the opportunity to take a stand against further subsidizing the McKinney Day Shelter at 50 Washington Square.
Reserved for communities comprised of populations of low and moderate incomes through the U.S. Housing and Community Development Act, this year the city had been eligible for up to $500,000 in federal funding, with a minimum entitlement amount of $300,000.
According to the city, requests totaling $643,380 were submitted for consideration, and a final package was voted on by councilors at their April 11 meeting.
Included in the total was $10,000 for the Washington Square Corp.'s McKinney Shelter day program.
However, Waluk, citing observed problems associated with the facility and, specifically, it's status as a "wet" shelter (that is, one that doesn't require residents to refrain from alcohol), took issue with the request.
"I think that is wrong," he said, noting that he regrets voting for the allotment in the past. "Look at the Newport Police blotter, and where do you have the most problems?"
With that, he offered a motion to amend the request to eliminate the funding for the facility, and apply the amount to infrastructure improvements.
His proposal drew the support of Councilors Kathryn E. Leonard and Charles Y. Duncan, who suggested taking a $2,500 portion of the total amount requested and apply it to Turning Around Ministry, which helps low income residents find housing.
The motion, however failed to secure a majority sentiment, though it perhaps raised the topic for future discussion.
As Second Ward Councilor Justin S. McLaughlin noted, the funding for the day shelter should actually help mitigate the problems that stem from the facility by providing residents a place to go during the day.
However, he did agree that the shelter should not permit alcohol.
Ultimately, Waluk's motion failed 4-3, with Councilors Jeanne Marie Napolitano, McLaughlin, Henry F. Winthrop, and Naomi Neville opposed. The full CDBG request passed on the next vote.