With what they see as long-term uncertainty surrounding the only two food assistance programs in Williams, the city council voted to form an ad-hoc committee that will explore ways to support those programs heading forward.
City Administrator Frank Kennedy said that while valuable resources to struggling Williams residents, the two programs – one of which provides emergency food assistance through the United States Department of Agriculture on a monthly basis, and the other provides food through other donations on a bi-monthly basis – lack sustainability.
“As I started to dive into this issue, it became more and more complicated,” Kennedy said. “There doesn’t seem to be a lot of stability through either one of those programs. Both are run basically by the good graces of the people who are currently running them. If those good graces or circumstances change, the programs may go away… What I’d like to do is form an ad-hoc committee and gather some people who have been working these programs, and somebody from the city council, and figure out how we can build some sustainability for these programs.”
Mayor Charles Bergson said that while it wasn’t incumbent on the city to provide food assistance programs, he would like to help keep the costs down for the programs that already exist.
“The fact that there are programs in town, I’d like to help defray the cost – if they’re looking at some red ink, we can help defray that,” Bergson said. “Many cities throughout the country, throughout the state… offer subsidies to… non-profits that run food programs, under some guidelines. And then, if the food program ends, the assistance stops – it’s not the city’s issue. I like the idea of having an ad-hoc committee.”
Bergson said that the city could help with covering certain costs for the programs, including rent, gas or utilities.
Councilmen Santos Jauregui and Alfred Sellers said they felt it was in the best interest of the city for the council to do what it could to keep the programs going. Councilman John Troughton said he was all for forming an ad-hoc committee to explore ways the city could assist the programs, but said there needed to be accountability for any city money that goes to those programs – which should be among the things studied by the committee.
“The one thing when you start giving away public money, you have to have strict accountability – you have to know how much you bought, how many people took it away, (and) you have to know what kind of food you’re buying,” Troughton said, adding that neither of the existing food programs were run by registered non-profits. “We need to study in that ad-hoc about what requirements we have if we give away $1,000 of city money, and what the accountability is, and who is going to be responsible for the books… I don’t want a Grand Jury inquiry about the city giving away money without accountability – we have to have strict accountability.”■