Benton Habitat for Humanity will receive an $8,000 distribution out of social services funding provided by the city of Philomath. (File photo by Brad Fuqua/Philomath News)

The Philomath City Council approved the distribution of a combined $51,452 in social services funding, utility assistance and transient lodging allocations to 11 organizations during its meeting Monday night.

“I’m really happy we’re able to offer these funds,” Mayor Chas Jones said. “I know that we as a city are privileged to be able to do such a thing. I’m certain that every organization that’s receiving funds is very, very thankful … I’m just glad that we’re able to do that.”

The social service agency funding represents the largest chunk of money with $38,602 going to six organizations. The city received funding requests from two fewer organizations compared to last fiscal year.

“The social services funding is really intended for nonprofit organizations that provide some sort of a service … within the city of Philomath’s boundaries,” Jones said.

The council’s approval of how the money is divided up among the social services agencies came out of recommendations that came out of the Finance and Administration Committee, which took up the issue at its Oct. 4 meeting. Jones and councilors Jessica Andrade and Teresa Nielson sit on the committee.

The six funding requests together added up to $51,300 and two organizations received the amounts requested — ABC House ($5,000) and Maxtivity ($4,800).

The biggest amount, $11,000, went to Philomath Community Services. The organization had requested $12,000 as it tries to find partial funding for the replacement of a failing freezer, Jones said.

Benton County Habitat for Humanity requested $15,000 as it continues to work on the construction of a local house but the committee’s recommendation ended up at $8,000. With those four agencies funded, that left $9,802 in the pot and the committee split it evenly between the Philomath Youth Activities Club and Strengthening Rural Families. Those two organizations had requested $8,000 and $6,500, respectively. 

City Manager Chris Workman expressed concern over the large amount going to Benton Habitat at the expense of PYAC.

“I think this is the lowest amount that I’ve ever seen go toward Philomath Youth Activities Club, which obviously serves a large number of children with sports, after-school care, summer care, etc.,” said Workman, who followed with a suggestion of lowering the Benton Habitat amount by $2,000 or $3,000 to be able to give more to PYAC.

Jones voiced a similar concern and moved to bring Benton Habitat’s allocation down from $8,000 to $5,000 and split the $3,000 between PYAC and Strengthening Rural Families to bring their totals up to $6,401 each.

The motion did not go to a vote, however, with no second.

Nielson said that after going through each funding request at the committee level, she stands behind its recommendation with an emphasis on housing. Andrade shared thoughts with the same reasoning.

The council then took a vote and the original funding recommendations were approved on a 5-0 vote. Councilor Matt Lehman recused himself because his wife works for one of the organizations receiving funding. Councilor Christopher McMorran had joined the meeting via videoconferencing and lost the connection during the vote, so that went down as an abstention.

Elsewhere, utility assistance funds added up to $10,350 and will be distributed 50-50 between Vina Moses Center and We Care, two organizations that assist individuals and families that need help paying utility bills. Each had requested $5,000 but the council set aside an extra $350 out of water and sewer revenues during its 2023-24 budget process. As a result, each organization received $5,175.

There was some discussion about the extra $350 being carried over for next year but in the end, the full $10,350 that had been recommended was awarded.

The city received three requests for funds out of Philomath’s share of revenue from the Benton County’s Transient Lodging Tax. A total of $5,000 was passed along to Philomath with half of that going to the city and the other half to the three organizations.

Among the $2,500 going to the agencies, distributions that were approved include $834 to the Benton County Historical Society, $833 to the Philomath Area Chamber of Commerce and $833 to the Philomath Frolic and Rodeo. The amounts were shy of the $1,000 that had been requested by the museum and chamber and well below a $7,000 request from the Frolic.

In other news out of the Oct. 23 meeting:

• The council approved a resolution in memory of the late Jeannine Gay, a former Philomath mayor, city councilor, planning commissioner and budget committee member who died Sept. 26.

• The council also approved a resolution in recognition of Nov. 11 as Veterans Day.

• The council approved a motion to invite three law firms to City Hall on Oct. 30 for interviews in the process to hire city attorney and city prosecutor services. The council also discussed and approved motions related to interview questions for the applicants.

• The mayor pulled from the agenda an ordinance vote on granting a nonexclusive franchise agreement with Pioneer Telephone Co. with needed information pending. The ordinance will likely come back for a vote in the near future.

Brad Fuqua has covered the Philomath area since 2014 as the editor of the now-closed Philomath Express and currently as publisher/editor of the Philomath News. He has worked as a professional journalist since 1988 at daily and weekly newspapers in Nebraska, Kansas, North Dakota, Arizona, Montana and Oregon.