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Executive Director of Hospitality House Lynn Mason urges commissioners to reconsider funding the county’s only emergency shelter.

PHOTOs BY ROB MOORE



Originally published: 2014-05-20 21:04:53
Last modified: 2014-05-21 12:27:19

Nonprofits request additional funding

by Allison Haver

Dozens of Watauga County citizens came out to the Watauga County Administration Building Wednesday evening for support or to speak out the about the county's proposed budget.

The Watauga County Board of Commissioners held a special public hearing regarding the proposed $57 million budget for the 2014-15 fiscal year.

During two work sessions earlier this month, commissioners voted on nonprofit funding and special appropriations.

Last year, supporters of local nonprofits listened and spoke before the board about the value of local nonprofits and the bargain rate at which they provided services to the county's most needy.

This year was no different, as approximately 12 people spoke before the board asking commissioners to increase their nonprofit organization's county funding.

County Librarian Monica Caruso, librarians Mary Sue Morgan and Susan Forman urged commissioners to consider increasing funding for library staff.

"Regarding our staff, any increase would be appreciated. More than half the staff makes less than $8.75 an hour," Morgan said.

"We have a vibrant public library and we have a very active Western Watauga branch and we are so fortunate in the county with our library staff," she said.

Forman said that many of the staff members of the county library work from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. six days a week and have bachelor's degrees.

"These people are incredible and the work they do is important," she said.

Lynne Mason, executive director of the Hospitality House, spoke on behalf of Hospitality House and in support of other nonprofits in the county.

Mason, who is set to retire on June 30, asked the board to consider not refusing to fund the county's only emergency shelter for the fourth consecutive year.

Marjorie McKinney, a volunteer and supporter of Hospitality House, said she was appalled to see that commissioners did not provide any funding to the organization.

"I think the county should stand up and show their compassion for these people," McKinney said. "They are people just like us."

McKinney urged commissioners to visit Hospitality House and talk with the residents and listen to their stories.

Soon to be executive director of the shelter, Tina Krause said that the organization was "meeting a need in the county."

"We are filling every cot and floor space during the bitter winter months, we have celebrated when people have graduated, and to some people we are their family," Krause said.

"I was raised not to cross the road and look the other way when a neighbor is in trouble," she said.

"We are meeting people's needs; we are meeting neighbors' needs," Krause said.

In other presentations, Watauga County Board of Education Vice Chairwoman Delora Hodges thanked the commissioners for their "support and flexibility."

Commissioners unanimously voted to reinstate the $50,000, which they initially cut out of Watauga County Schools' current operating costs during the two work sessions last week.

The $50,000 included funding for a special camp.

According to commissioners, earlier the county school system only approved six weeks for a special camp, as opposed to the requested eight weeks from the county for a Department of Social Services certified summer camp for underprivileged children.

County Manager Deron Geouque said that the commissioners and school officials compromised with seven weeks for the camp.

"I think the relationship between Watauga County Schools and commissioners has been a good one for many years," Hodges said.

Supporters of Mountain Alliance, High County Crime Stoppers, Children's Playhouse, Appalachian Theatre Inc. and Community Care Clinic also spoke.