Woman’s Freedom Center sees last minute budget increase

Ludlow residents amended allocating more money to the Women’s Freedom Center. Photo by Shawntae Stillwell.

LUDLOW, Vt. – The annual Ludlow Town Meeting took place on Monday, March 5 at the Town Office. The agenda was to approve the budget for the fiscal year 2019. While many budget items received a unanimous approval, one issue had an extensive conversation regarding a last minute change in budget.

Article 16 was originally put on the agenda because the Women’s Freedom Center, formally known as Women’s Crisis Center, did not send in paperwork in time for the Town Office, so voters had to approve the $800 budget. However, community members voiced their gratitude for the nonprofit organization. Jeffrey Billings, Chief of Police in Ludlow, voiced the importance of the Women’s Freedom Center by saying, “They do great work, and when you have to find a place to stay at 2 a.m. they are there. If we’re giving them $800 we should increase it to $1,500.”

Immediately the motion was made to amend Article 16 with an increase from $800 to $1,500. It was however determined to be germane by the Moderator. As discussion continued, both sides made their arguments. “It’s an amazing resource that helps woman and young adults,” said Pamela O’Neill, who is a director of guidance at Green Mountain Union High School.

Other arguments were made that the organization should have sent a representative to give more information about what the funding goes toward. It was also noted that the change may not be ethical because Ludlow residents that did not attend the meeting could be ill informed about the budget total when voting the following Tuesday, March 6. However, Pamela O’Neil made the motion to overrule the Moderator’s objection to the budget change and was amended for $1,500 with an overwhelming majority from the voters.

The Women’s Freedom Center is an organization that provides services to woman who may be suffering physical or emotional abuse. Their goal is to put a stop to emotional and sexual abuse in Windham and Southern Windsor counties. They offer shelter, counseling, transportation, and safety planning. Information is posted in schools in the surrounding areas for teenagers and children who may need the program to combat mental illness.

Other discussions included whether the Black Rivers Valley Gun and Rod Club should receive a tenure tax exemption on their property. Stephen Howard said the tax exemption would be to allow them to make structural repairs on the club so it could be used for the public. The club often hosts community events such as annual Fishing Days, and hunter safety courses. Their gun range is also used by the Ludlow Police Department.

Minutes of the meeting can be found at www.Ludlow.vt.us and at the town office. More information on the Women’s Freedom Center can be found at www.womensfreedomcenter.net.

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