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January 19, 2010 - 11:54pm

Not raising taxes might be tough, council learns in first budget session

posted by Howard B. Owens in batavia, budget, city council.

hyde_molino-budget.jpg

It's that time of year again -- when the City of Batavia officials sit down to look reality in the face and try and figure out how to balance tougher-to-get revenue with ever increasing expenses.

Sales tax is expected to be down, some longtime employees are coming up on retirement, the city's infrastructure is aging and some key pieces of equipment haven't been replaced in decades.

So what about that proposed 3-percent increase in property taxes?

Councilman Frank Ferrando asked City Manager Jason Molino if there is any way to cut it back and Molino said that would be hard, especially if the city wants to start replacing old equipment and start planning for the future.

"Rather than my trying to take apart a budget that's pretty complicated, I look at it as best I can," Ferrando said. "You know the budget and the staff better than all of us. I would rather give you a charge and say, here's what I think our taxpayers would take and you make the adjustments as opposed to me telling you what you should and shouldn't be doing."

chiefbaker_monlino-budget.jpgMolino explained that the city isn't looking at a tax increase just to raise revenue, but to put the city on a sounder financial footing.

"What we’re starting to look at is if we’re going to invest -- and I look at it as an investment -- you’re going to have to maintain certain levels of service," Molino said. "We're going to have to look at a marginal tax-rate increase. That’s what we’re starting to look at here. All right, if we’re going to have to increase the tax rate a marginal amount, what do we get in return?"

Council President Marianne Clattenburg, after noting how much more difficult the budget picture looks because of weaker-than-expected sales-tax projections, said making the cuts necessary to bring down the tax increase could be difficult.

"There’s always a possibility to cut things," Clattenburg said. "But this year we’re trying to bring back some equipment we’ve deferred and purchase things that we’re going to need if we’re going to fix the streets. We’ve really been budgeting conservatively for quite a number of years now, so when you get to the point we’re in now, with the economy the way it is and dropping revenues, it gets really tough to do."

About the only time the staff-council discussion became animated tonight was when Fire Chief Ralph Hyde tried to explain the need for his department to become ALS (Advanced Life Support) certified. It would allow firefighters to provide critical lifesaving care in those few instances when they are on scene before Mercy EMS. Fourteen firefighters are already trained as paramedics, in part because of current state firefighter hiring requirements.

"This will save a lot more lives than just fighting fires in a city this size," Hyde said, "because there are sometimes these four- and five- and six-minute gaps in response time."

The certification would allow trained and experienced paramedics on the Fire Department staff to provide lifesaving services that right now they cannot legally perform, even though they know how.

Some council members expressed concern about training costs and overtime, but Hyde and Molino said the process of getting and maintaining ALS certification can be cost neutral. That's because of state grants and how internal training programs can be set up --  using the City's on-staff trainer to train personnel from other fire companies.

The council also heard reports on the departments of finance, personnel, youth bureau, assessment, police, public works, and water and sewer.

The next budget workshop is at the Council's next regular Monday meeting.

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Pictures: Top, Chief Hyde, left, and Molino. Middle, Police Chief Randy Baker with Molino. Bottom, full council at session.

william tapp
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you CANT raise taxes, we are taxed to death now.start cutting big high wages to give some people.im sure you can find place to cut or privatize city owned property. BUT NO MORE TAXES, people just don't have it, we are at the end of our ropes.
John Roach
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Some council members want to consolidate the City Youth Services with the County. And, already two members, Bill Cox and Sam Barone are against it, so taxes will stay higher than needed. And just wait to you hear the members of the Youth Board cry how kids need this spending! We consolidated Senior services with the County, and it worked. We can do the same with youth if we really want to. By the way, don't forget you are paying Genesee County taxes to run their youth program anyway, so you are paying twice if you live in the city.
jonathan bell
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privatizing government property is a horrible idea. it looks great on paper but what about after the company's contract is up and the city is scrambling to renew it. The Army is doing that right now and realizing how dumb privitization really is. When the contractor fails to meet the requirements then the government still has to pick up the slack and help out. Yes the state of new york taxes like crazy but look at the pay scales. cost of living is higher so pay is higher. in the state of colorado everything is cheaper then in NY but the pay scale reflects it. As inflation goes up for the residents of NY it also goes up for the state. If your paying 4 dollars a gallon for diesle the state is also paying 4 dollars a gallon. The price of salt goes up your taxes go yp you complain. they dont plow and salt the road your car slides on ice you complain the roads werent plowed and it costs you more then if they were plowed right? for the most part New Yorkers get there tax money back
Mark Janofsky
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All redundant services between the City and County should be consolidated. The youth board and assesment should only be the start. Why does county jurisdiction of county highway stop at the city line? I know this is currently a "seperate tax" but the county should take over the library too. It's kind of ironic that Mr. Cox wants to save the youth board but doesn't want kids playing in the 1st ward.
C. M. Barons
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You get what you vote for- next time pull the lever over the name you DON'T recognize.
John Roach
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Jonathan, While I like your points, the State does not pay what you pay for gas or diesel - they don't have to pay the taxes.
C. M. Barons
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John- they also bought through group-bid purchase at a fixed price.
Bea McManis
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Posted by Mark Janofsky on January 20, 2010 - 12:17pm All redundant services between the City and County should be consolidated. The youth board and assesment should only be the start. Why does county jurisdiction of county highway stop at the city line? I know this is currently a "seperate tax" but the county should take over the library too. I thought the library was part of the Batavia School system, not owned by the city. Are you saying that the county should take over a portion of the school system? How would that save the city money?
John Roach
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Bea, You're right about the Library. I think that since there is a separate vote on the Library budget each year, some people are not sure who the Library falls under.
Richard Gahagan
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Cut every single city department, eliminate jobs, freeze pay raises, cut benefits, reduce salaries, reduce 401k matching funds, eliminate programs, and reduce taxes. Private corporations reacted to the economic conditions in this manner over a year ago time for the government to start managing its business in line with tax revenue decline. Get some guts make the cuts.
Bea McManis
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Posted by John Roach on January 20, 2010 - 2:03pm Bea, You're right about the Library. I think that since there is a separate vote on the Library budget each year, some people are not sure who the Library falls under. It just seems that people are so anxious to shut down, consolidate, take over, or sell whatever that they really don't have a clue which entity owns what. We are STILL waiting for the pictures of all of the empty firehouses that the city could sell. Most of us knew that there is only one active fire house and the other was sold to a private concern. There are people who still believe that facilities owned by the county should be sold, by the city, to save city taxes. I agree there should be a dialogue about the city raising taxes, but if that dialogue has any meaning, we should be discussing real line items and not false perceptions.
Mark Potwora
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I was surprized to hear that the the fire dept is still going to the same calls as Mercy Flight..Isn't that why we did away with this service...We are spose to be saving money by doing away with that service...And instead the city is still going out on these calls... And this quote by Mr Ferrando "Rather than my trying to take apart a budget that's pretty complicated, I look at it as best I can," Ferrando said. "You know the budget and the staff better than all of us. I would rather give you a charge and say, here's what I think our taxpayers would take and you make the adjustments as opposed to me telling you what you should and shouldn't be doing."...Blew me away,Isn't that councils job to pick it apart and see what should be cut..Council is spose to be telling the city manager what to do,it not the other way around...We want a cut in our taxes not a increase Mr.Molino.....
Mark Janofsky
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Bea / John, I know the library falls under the school system and they have separate funding from the school district. Each library around the county is under the same system. If you think the library should be part of the school system, then yes, the county should take over part of the school system. This has nothing to do with the city, but everything to do with consolidation of redundant services. A county wide library system would increase efficiency by removing redundancy. It’s inline with the same thought of a single county wide youth bureau and county wide assessment bureau.
Bea McManis
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Mark What is the redundancy with the library? Are you saying we should only have ONE library or that the existing libraries should share resources (like books)? We already do that.
Mark Janofsky
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While they all share resources (county and network wide), each operate as their own little fiefdom. One management structure county wide would be more effective. I also believe their revenue structure is “out of wack”. All libraries county wide should be funded equally in a manner that is fair for everyone.
John Roach
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Mark, I like the idea of one management team, but I wonder how many School Boards would be willing to give up a little power? There is an outside chance of a real School Board election this year in Batavia, so who knows? Maybe one candidate will consider this.
Howard B. Owens
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@Richard: You can't just do away with all city government. Somebody needs to plow the streets, respond to larceny reports and keep the water running. From everything I've seen, heard and red, the city has done quite a bit of cutting the past three or four years -- quite on par with with private companies have done. Loo at the budget post I did last week which detailed all the positions cut. City staff has been greatly reduced. As anti-government as I am, I still acknowledge we need an efficient and effective city government. You can't just eliminate it. @Mark. I think Frank Ferrando is exactly right. Elected officials are executives, not managers, not workers. It is the job of a company executive to set policy, set strategy, set expectations and then leave it up to the professional experts he or she hires to carry out the work and make recommendations within the framework of the policy and the strategies set by the executives. Any executive that gets into the details is a very, very, very bad executive. If you hire somebody to dig a ditch, you don't get in the ditch with him. You expect him to be able to dig it according to the specifications you provide. When you hire a manager to manage the budget, you don't do his work for him -- you provide clear guidelines and then approve his work if he meets expectations, even if it didn't come out exactly as it might if you had done it yourself.
Mark Janofsky
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John, You’re right I don’t ever see people in power volunteering to give “their” assets away. It depends on how cumbersome each school board views their public library to be. The bigger issue is the shifting of revenue source. People will freak out over it. Even when there's a net decrease.
Mark Potwora
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Howard then what is the point of even having these budget meetings.If council is just going to take Malino's budget at face value and not go over all the things that Malino thinks the city need to spend our money on ,why have any meetings at all and just pass the budget...
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Mark, good executives still have to be informed and provide oversight and supervision and guidance to their staff. They just don't micromanage.
John Roach
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Mark, Budget meetings are also a check and balance operation. If the manager has an item you don't like, how would you know? If the manager was told to add or delete an item, how would you know? If there is an increase or decrease in project revenues in a certain category, how would they know? It's also a chance to see just how much each person costs and how much each office cost to run.
Charlie Mallow
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Howard is absolutely right about the role of Council. It is to oversee the budget not to micromanage the day to day operations of the City Manager. Mark, Council sets the budget and therefore controls the spending. That is where the buck stops. The budget review process is the method used to set a budget and direction for the city. I also wouldn’t pay too much attention to what is said or the numbers that are being tossed around. Council people have access to all the background information. I am also positive they will come back with the best possible budget that balances the cities needs with what we can afford. Remember our city taxes are the smallest part of your tax bill and provide most of the services you get from government. There are a lot bigger fish to fry out there.
Karen Miconi
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Howard you say "city staff has been greatly reduced". Where, who, what, when, and how? Its news to me.
Howard B. Owens
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Read this post. There have been 23 layoffs and 15 vacant positions not filled.
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So they layoff 23 city staff, (Im assuming this would be ambulance and fire), but gives 10 city bigwigs, a 1.5% raise, and himself a bonus, and crys broke, and deficit. In my opinion, are city manager is trying to Sugar Coat the real deal. In my opinion he needs to make cuts in "Wastefull Spending", and that is what they should be investigating, and fixing. Not how much of a raise and bonus they can squeeze out of the taxpayer.
Howard B. Owens
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What wasteful spending, Karen? What specifically would you cut?
John Roach
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Karen, Genesee County runs a youth program and city residents pay taxes for it. The City runs a youth program and we pay taxes for it. Do you favor running both and city residents paying for the same thing twice? We could cut one of the "city bigwigs" if we consolidate youth services with the County. Would you support cutting a "bigwig" job? Three council members (Cox, Barone and Bialkowski) do not support cuts. Will you lobby them?
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Its not my job, its theirs. Pork Projects, law suits(might I add, there are too damn many)against the city, cuts in city staff, (and I dont mean the ambulance and fire, they've played that card long enough), I dont see any other city employees being downsized, overtime, bonuses, keeping up with city business, such as the Mall Law Suit, how long will this farse go on, and to date how much has the city spent on this nonsence?(go after the bullheaded engineer that insisted it be built the way it was, and tell the city lawyer) water deal(that they just forgot to hike up for what? 7 years, and now we play catch-up, police dept(payed now, but forgotten for years too), misdirected grants, supposed to be used for what they were given, oh but lets attack our youth? our future?, our schools?,our emergency services? ect. The taxpayers are the ones that will suffer,and that will continue to pay for these mistakes. Instead of cutting the things most needed, and the norm in most citys,do your job, research into other ways. Isnt this what we pay them to do? Notice the first order of business on the adgenda,.. Raises and Bonuses?? Yes there are bigger issues that need to be put first, in my opinion.
Chris Charvella
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John, Do you think the new Council will revisit consolidating youth services? Back in October I was given quite a bit of useful information taht made a move like that look feasible. I wasn't involved the last time it came up but from what I understand there was some high drama involved.
Charlie Mallow
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I can safely say there is very little “wasteful spending” at City Hall. There is nothing easy to cut and every savings would include the loss of a service and the people that perform that service. The city’s budget is very small about half what we pay for our schools. It’s also pretty clear that the majority of people who live in the city want the level of service we currently have. We want garbage pickup, police, paid fire, snow plowing, parks, streets fixed and sidewalks repaired. That’s what people pay taxes for and what they expect. It’s good to vent and I don’t want to take that God given right away from anyone but, it would be delusional to believe that city taxpayers would support any more cuts to service levels. In the end you have to believe the people who are in office right now won in a landslide for a reason.
Mark Potwora
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Charlie you are right about the value we get for our tax dollar in the city of Batavia.The county which is just about the same rate ,is were we all get screwed.John you are so right about the youth dept.I hope consolidation is no.1 on council's agenda for the year..Police and Fire included......It sounded like to me that Mr.Ferrando was leaving it up to Mr.Malino with little or no input,my misunderstanding of the process..That said i would like to hear more from council on other ways to cut or raise income besides raising my taxes...A good start would be all the non profits that use city services being made to pay a higher rate to the city for those services.The trash costs are one place they can start with..Also some kind of special assessment on those who are convicted of a crime in Batavia.They are the ones driving costs at the police dept...Instead of looking at the property owner for revenue.Look at other areas first.... Mark,I don't understand why the Library is part of the school system...I pay over 200 dollars a year for it and never use it,like most city property owners.They have a vote on the budget every year but it is on a different day then the school budget...Each school in the city has a library why should they run Richmond..Let the county run it ...
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Mark, you couldn’t be more right about consolidation. It is the only way to keep service levels where they are now and lower escalating costs. A county our size should have only one government and it is my strong belief it should be from the county level.
Chris, There was no high drama at all regarding Youth Services. The county may have provided you information but it was not provided at all to anyone else. Consolidation has always been on the table for the Youth Boards. There has never been a plan on how to keep the programs running. The county doesn't run programs for the kids, the CITY does, so please Chris I would love to see that plan! John, Do you know how much the City Youth Program costs the tax payers? BETTER YET! Do you know how much it cost us to have BOTH a County Sheriff AND a city police? ALOT more!!! Forget sacred cows, How about sound Math! I am sick of hearing about the youth boards when we are paying through the ROOF for Police and Fire! If you Eliminate the City Youth Board, you will save AT MOST $100,000...That dollar amount comes with a lot a factors, like if the state will still provide funding at the county level. You see the CITY gets funding to offset cost for that, NOT the County. IF you consolidate the Police Force you will save Millions!!!! No special conditions...STRAIGHT UP SAVINGS!! Please Chris, dead serious here, if you have a "plan" that the county has to consolidate services that still PROVIDES services, send it to me and I will personally bring before the Youth Board. John, When do we start actually doing things in this City that will Actually SAVE REAL MONEY?
Richard Gahagan
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Atta boy Phil does the small village of Batavia really need county sheriffs, city police, and state troopers riding around looking for someone to arrest. What about government employee overtime hours and benefits - those were the first things they cut at my company in hopes of keeping as many employees as possible. Then we went to a four day week, then we shut down several plants for a few weeks. We were more profitable quarter over quarter from the previous year eventhough we brought in less revenue. Cost savings and reduced spending. Get some guts make the cuts.
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Chris, Yes, some council members have said they are willing to look at this and some have said "no way". Phil, Yes, I have looked at the cost and the minutes from the board. And I notice that on average, only 19 kids use the Youth Center. Maybe we can find another place, like the Library, for the 19. And Jason had a plan last time, but as you should well know, there was a lot of pressure put on some members to vote no. Karen, Nice way to dodge the question. Would you support cutting a "bigwig", City Hall job? Yes or No?
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Maybe we can turn the Youth Bureau over to a private organization to run (like the Y) and get out of the youth bureau business altogether. How much would we save by turning the responsibility of our young to a private organization(s). We have a YMCA, a YWCa, church groups, school groups. organized sports groups, etc. What exactly can the youth bureau do that these other entities can't?
John Roach
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Bea, Not a bad idea. You could make a contract with the Y for a fee that would much less than the city running this.
Bea McManis
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Posted by John Roach on January 21, 2010 - 12:12pm Phil, Yes, I have looked at the cost and the minutes from the board. And I notice that on average, only 19 kids use the Youth Center. then... Posted by Phil Ricci on January 21, 2010 - 11:14am Do you know how much the City Youth Program costs the tax payers? BETTER YET! Forget sacred cows, How about sound Math! I am sick of hearing about the youth boards when we are paying through the ROOF for Police and Fire! If you Eliminate the City Youth Board, you will save AT MOST $100,000... So, If John's figures are right, and Phil claims that the savings to the tax payers is ONLY $100,000, then that means that it is costing the city over $5000 per kid to use the youth center. Wow!
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I’m real confused with this one, help me out. So it’s OK to privatize youth services but, not the nursing home business?
Bea McManis
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Charlie, I'm just offering a viable option. Isn't that what this is all about, viable options?
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Phil, I didn't say I was given a plan, I said I was given information. As usual you love consolidation until it affects one of your pets. Charlie, the nursing home and youth services are apples and oranges. I wouldn't support privatizing youth services though, but it's certainly one of the instances where a single organization could possibly provide the same level of service for less money. Definitely worth a look.
Charlie Mallow
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Bea, I find it hard to believe you are genuine in your argument to consolidate the YB. I also find it hard to believe the county would offer a consolidation option after the reaction we got from city residents the last time. This again goes back to service level. Whether you would like to consolidate YB services or not, I see very little public support for it.
Bea McManis
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Charlie, read it again. I'm not suggesting a consolidation. I'm offering, as a viable solution, the opportunity for the youth bureau to be disolved (thus saving the cost of over $5000 per child now using the service)and having other entities take over servicing the needs of the youth in our area. Certainly, the cost of a year's membership to the YMCA would be reasonable for the family of any child. Don't you think? Then, there is always the option of famiies providing the same thing that the youth bureau currently offers. According to their web site, the youth bureau "helps motivate young people to develop a sense of responsibility and make a positive contribution to their communities". Isn't that the responsibility of the parents or other family members? If outside motivation is needed, aren't there a myraid of other entities (be it school; church; or organized sports) willing to meet that need?
Richard Gahagan
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Every council member should read Daniel Henniner article in the Wall Street Journal Article: The Fall of the House of Kennedy. Scott Brown's victory in Massachusetts will not endure unless Republicans clearly understand the meaning of "the machine" that he ran against and defeated. Here are some excerpts: The central battle in our time is over political primacy. It is a competition between the public sector and the private sector over who defines the work and the institutions that make a nation thrive and grow. The states in the North and on the coasts turned blue because blue is the color of the public-sector unions. This tax-and-spend milieu became the training ground for their politicians. But here's the democratic party's self-destroying kicker: Feeding the public unions' wage demands starved other government responsibilities. It ruined our ability to have a useful debate about any other public functions. The physical infrastructure in blue states is literally falling apart. But look at those public wage and pension-related outlays. Ever upward. The message sent to the rest of the country from Massachusetts is : Cut government jobs and spending and bust public sector unions. http://online.wsj.com/article/SB1000142405274870432010457501501051568812...
Charlie Mallow
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Bea, I’m not disagreeing with you. I’m just surprised by what appears to be a 360 degree turn in your compassion. Why now have you chosen to find “viable” solutions for the cost of our youth services when you stand so firmly against doing the same for our senior services? If I hear you right, it’s good to study alternatives when it might mean throwing kids in the street but, not for adults? You seem to have no issue with calculating the math on a per child basis but, it is unthinkable to do the same for a senior. Is it because, kids can’t vote?
Chris Charvella
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Gee Charlie, I wasn't aware that there were children living in the Youth Center and depending on specialized medical care that they couldn't afford elsewhere.
Bea McManis
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Charlie, Are you saying it is okay to throw the old people out in the street as long as 19 kids have a youth center? I'm just following your lead and looking at altermative solutions. Why do you find that so offensive?
Charlie Mallow
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Bea, I would not support something that was shortsighted towards our seniors or youth. I’m just still very puzzled that you would suggest a study that could affect one group even though you were outraged that others would suggest a study for another. Chris, maybe you should spend a little time down at the YB before you decide what an impact this would have on those children? I’m also far from against a consolidation study. I just find it interesting that the heart doesn’t seem to bleed in a regular pattern.
John Roach
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Charlie, Poor choice of words: "throwing kids in the street", which you know is not accurate. Of course, seniors are not going to be thrown in the street either.
Charlie Mallow
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John, I know for certain that neither seniors nor kids would be thrown in the street. I intended my use of words to match the outrageous claims made against the nursing home study.

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