Council debates shelter funds

Ticket surcharges, increased court costs may assist Bridge

The Bridge Emergency Shelter may receive extra funds from the city of Cortez to help them through the remainder of the year.

M.B. McAfee, chair of the board of directors and acting executive director of the shelter, on Tuesday night gave the Cortez City Council a glimpse into the shelter and its finances.

While no decision was reached on the funding, $15,000 was discussed for next year because the current budget that runs through 2013 has already been approved.

City Manager Shane Hale said the $15,000 to the shelter would be a city council decision during the budget process.

After McAfee and other shelter members left the council workshop meeting, city attorney Mike Green proposed placing a surcharge on all traffic tickets and increasing low court costs to either help the council come up with the $15,000 for the shelter or add to the amount.

After the meeting, Hale said the city will be looking into these proposals and mentioned the extra funds would go to the shelter later this year.

Cortez Police Chief and shelter board member Roy Lane said three to four people die every year because of freezing temperatures. He added there have been no deaths related to the temperatures this season.

"There is no alternative," Lane said when talking about a place for the homeless. "It's a godsend for us to have the Bridge for these folks. A life is a life ... no matter who it is."

The shelter is open from 6 p.m. to 7 a.m. every day from Oct. 15 to April 15.

Lane also said he has seen no real increase in the number of homeless in the community since there is a place for them to spend the night. Placing them in jail to get them out of the cold, he added, would cost $52 a day.

Hale said the cost could even be higher if the homeless had to be transported to the hospital.

McAfee told the council that in October 2012 she realized the shelter was approaching its own fiscal cliff, with funds being depleted by the middle of December.

The shelter's executive director was let go, and McAfee arranged a meeting with stakeholders in the community, who responded.

The hospital and county pledged $10,000 each and the city gave another $2,000 to the $8,000 that was already in its budget. As a result, the shelter was able to avert the crisis and now has the funds to stay open through the season.

McAfee spoke to the council about the shelter's slogan, "We are more than a meal and bed." She said the homeless who stay at the shelter are considered guests.

McAfee said without the additional funds there is a strong likelihood that the shelter will face financial hardship, but added the board would put their heads together to come up with additional resources. Closing the shelter is not an option.

Council members agree on the importance of the shelter remaining open.

"It's important we take care of our own," said council member Bob Archibeque.

michaelm@cortezjournal.com