The Dane County Board of Supervisors voted July 17 against a procedural measure of bringing a resolution to increase funding for a centrally located permanent day resource center out of committee planning and placing it on the August agenda for discussion from all supervisors.
The resolution, which calls for a Capital Budget amendment allocating $4 million for the purchase of a centrally located permanent homeless day resource center within walking distance from downtown overnight shelters, will remain in county committee discussion. These committees include the Homeless Issues Committee, Health and Human Needs and Personnel and Finance.
Despite several reminders from Chairwoman Sharon Corrigan to stick to the procedural aspect of the resolution, board members brought up many points of debate for the resource center including size, transportation and conflicts with the Town of Madison where the site is located.
The site in question is located at 1490 Martin St., a building owned by Porchlight Inc. until the county acquires the necessary zoning and use permits. The site currently functions as a day center.
Board members who were in favor of withdrawing the resolution from committee said they wanted to bring the issue back to the board floor at the August meeting to discuss “a back up plan,” Supervisor Heidi Wegleitner of Madison said, since the Martin Street location is not a “done deal.”
“I really think it’s risky if we’re that concerned about making that a reality for this winter to not consider other locations and to not consider that we might need more funding to do it in another spot,” Wegleitner said.
Those against the withdrawal motion maintain the best course of action is to move ahead with the county’s committee structure and that the motion was “premature,” according to Supervisor Nick Zweifel of Madison
Zweifel said the conversation will be a “wasted debate” if there is not another location option on the table, saying the Board should continue planning for the Martin Street location.
“This $4 million we are being asked to debate will be for nothing,” Zweifel said.
Despite having the budget earmarked for a day shelter in the county budget for the past three years, a physical location has not opened yet, a “heartbreaking” situation, Zweifel said.
Zweifel said the board is committed to opening a day shelter but writing legislation should not be rushed.
“We can’t just write bad legislation because we’re in a hurry,” Zweifel said.
Wegleitner maintains that a centrally located, downtown location would be a better option even if it meant opening later than Nov. 1.
“There are problems with the site,” Wegleitner said. “We need to have come contingency plans.”
But a downtown shelter option is not a backup plan, Chair of Personnel and Finance Committee Sup. Jeff Pertl said, but rather a different pathway. A back up plan for the Martin Street location would be to provide temporary services as the county has done in the past, according to Pertl.
“It’s just a little premature to change course,” Pertl said.
The Homeless Issues Committee discussed the shelter at its meeting May 13, but the Health and Human Needs in addition to the Personnel and Finance committees have not discussed the resolution.
The motion to withdraw the resolution from committee failed 21-12 with four abstaining. The Dane County Board’s next meeting takes place Aug. 14.