Oct 252011
Authors: Andrew Carrera

Social services offered by the city of Fort Collins were under review Tuesday night as councilmembers discussed local government’s involvement in a range of regional welfare agencies.

“The people of Fort Collins are very concerned with the welfare of their neighbors who are disadvantaged, especially in today’s economy. There’s so many people out of work,” said Councilmember Ben Manvel representing the first district. “This is a very important time to look and see what we should be doing, and see if we’re doing an adequate amount.”

The services the city offers –– like homeless shelters, day care centers, job training workshops and care for the elderly –– were compared against those provided by Loveland, Greeley, Boulder, Longmont and Colorado Springs in a presentation given by city government staffer Ken Waido. Fort Collins landed in about the middle.

“I think our basic level of involvement is about right,” Manvel said after reviewing the information. “I don’t think we should take up a lot of additional responsibilities.”

Even still, he worried about a potential disconnect between two crucial city services.

“Low-income housing is not necessarily located where the public transportation is located,” he said, which is particularly concerning because those two interests are heavily funded by Fort Collins city government. “That’s one possible problem area we’ll look at.”

Manvel wasn’t alone in raising specific concerns about aspects of city social services.

Council member Aislinn Kottwitz, representing the third district, discussed how among the 25 to 30 agencies Fort Collins works with to provide services, some of the smaller ones may not benefit as much from the city compared to larger organizations with “more money and more staff.”

“Do we offer discounted rates to smaller non-profits seeking to rent a room managed by the city?” she asked.

No one in the room could provide an answer.

“Free is never acceptable,” Mayor Karen Weitkunat said.

Council member Kottwitz questioned the room about other ways the city helps small social welfare groups.

“If they came to the city and asked for (grant writing) assistance, do they get free use of our resources?”

City Manager Darin Atteberry responded.

“We’re not well organized enough to address some of the wide-ranging questions that you’re talking about,” he said.

At the same time, some wondered whether the Fort Collins city government’s role was to be a “provider” so much as an entity that partners with other agencies to provide social services to citizens.

“I’ve never said that we should be providers. That is not our goal. That is not appropriate in any way, shape or form,” said Councilmember Lisa Poppaw representing the second district. “Would I like to see a lot more dollars allocated? Well sure … I’d like to see that for all kinds of different things.”

“I think the city of Fort Collins does a really good job,” she added. “But I do think we can do better.”

Senior Reporter Andrew Carrera can be reached at news@collegian.com.

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