MADISON - The Boone County Commission on June 4 denied a request from a peer support group to use county-owned facilities in Wharton and Van for their weekly meetings.
Mary Price, the organizer of the group, addressed Boone County Commissioners about her desire to continue using the facilities free of charge. Among others, she does work via Boone County Stopwatch.
"I've been running a peer support group for people in recovery from addiction since 2016," she said. "In 2017 we started using the Wharton Community Center weekly and I've had as many as 18 but generally averages 6-8 people per night in recovery from addiction and needing the support. In 2018, I added Van Community Center and was doing support groups there."
Price explained that after a brief break from using the centers, upon return the groups were told that there would be a $25 fee for each time they used it.
"I'm asking that we be able to use the community centers again for such an important thing as a support group for people in recovery from addiction at no charge," she said.
Commission President Eddie Hendricks replied to the request by Price and explained the county's dire financial status and why they would not offer an exception.
"I'll tell you why we have to charge," he said. "The reason we have to charge is because of the financial situation we are in. Plus, we want to keep them open. It costs us $57,000 just for water and fire in those buildings. We have lost $10,000 in these buildings and people should have paid but it wasn't monitored right. We're not in a position anymore where we can let things go for free. There are other people that have been on a free ride with us for years and we've had to start charging them, also."
Hendricks continued. "We are in dire straits here with money and I don't know how else I can express this upon you."
Price responded to Hendricks' explanation.
"I know that you are but the reality is that you won't get it because we are a support group for recovering addicts without a job or an income so there will be no money. I can't afford $200 per month to just dish out for this and I'm not going to. We need a place to have our support groups and I think Boone County should approve us to be able to use that building for free. This is 18 people in recovery from addiction."
Price added, "These people could be out stealing, they could be out, what's the common term - backpacking? But through our support, they're not. When the group that comes in to distribute food to the community like they have for several years, will they also be charged to use the community center?"
Hendricks expressed that the commission didn't question the validity of the work that the group was doing but that if they allowed one group to use it for free, they'd have to let others.
"We look at these budget numbers and I don't think I can impress upon you the kind of financial condition we're in right now," said Commissioner Brett Kuhn.
The commission denied the request from Price.
Reporter Phil Perry can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter