By Don Nelson
Concerned about their own tight budget challenges through the end of the year, the Winthrop Town Council declined last week to appropriate $1,000 for the financially troubled Okanogan County Transportation and Nutrition program.
OCTN provides meals at senior centers and delivers meals to home-bound seniors in Okanogan, Chelan, Douglas and Lincoln counties, where the agency works with 17 senior centers in 17 cities and towns.
OCTN is a private nonprofit and all services are funded solely through grants, donations and fares. The organization is asking contributors to help it balance its 2013 operating budget. OTCN needs another $32,000 to make it to the end of the year, Executive Director Leanne Whitener said recently. OCTN is now turning to local governments for contributions to sustain its programs.
Winthrop has contributed up to $2,000 annually in the past, but in budget discussions for the current year the contribution was first reduced to $1,000 and then eliminated altogether.
At last week’s meeting, several council members expressed sympathy for OTCN but said they are concerned about the town’s needs over the next few months. “I hate to say no,” council member Sue Langdalen said.
“We’re not sure yet where we’re going to fall [this year],” council member Rick Northcott said.
“We all probably wanted to do it [fund OTCN],” Northcott said of the council’s earlier budget discussions. “But it was something we decided to cut.”
Council member Mort Banasky suggested that an appropriation be included in 2014 budget discussions so the council can take up the issue again.
In other business, the council acknowledged the resignation of council member Tiffany Langdalen, who is moving outside the town limits, and discussed how to replace her. Langdalen had decided not to seek re-election to her council seat, which would expire in January 2014. The only candidate to file for the position was Michael Strulic.
Council members contemplated appointing Strulic to the vacant position now, but there was a question about what would happen after the election, which Strulic is likely to win. Ordinarily, a newly elected council member would not take office until the following January.
Town Clerk Michelle Gaines said she would ask the county auditor’s office for advice on how to proceed.