Archive for Monday, April 29, 2002

Organizations vying for money

April 29, 2002

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Lawrence's Animal Control officers will pick up stray cats and dogs. They generally don't deal with raccoons, beavers or bats that find their way into local attics.

But Operation Wildlife does.

And Diane Johnson, Operation Wildlife's executive director, says the number of phone calls her organization receives from Lawrence is growing to nearly 20 calls a day.

"Of course, it's baby season," she said. "There will be more calls now than there would be in winter."

In the springtime, Operation Wildlife often receives calls to help concerned residents deal with fledglings and other young wildlife that stray from their nests and dens.

Johnson wants the city to put up the dollars to pay for a full-time staff person. She's asking for $18,000 for the staffer, plus money to buy a used vehicle  "I don't think they'd want to transport a skunk in their personal vehicle," she said  and traps.

"We went out a couple of days ago and picked up a raccoon on Tennessee Street that had been attacked by dogs," she said. "Lawrence's Animal Control department doesn't do that."

Operation Wildlife isn't the only outside agency hoping to tap into Lawrence's coffers. On Wednesday and Thursday, the Lawrence City Commission will hear from each of 24 organizations  with missions ranging from economic development to battered women's services  hoping for city financial support in 2003.

It might be tough for them. City officials are expecting a lean budget year, but the organizations are asking for nearly $1.25 million; more than $150,000 above what was allocated in the city's 2002 budget.

City and county officials had feared that the state's belt-tightening might prompt a host of small agencies turning to them for support. Commissioner David Dunfield said that hasn't materialized on the city side.

Still, he said, "it's clear we've gone through a couple of decades where we've seen more and more financial obligations passed from federal to state and from state to city. There's no question the city's being asked to do more."

The city, Dunfield said, may not be able to do what all the outside agencies ask. That will lead to tough choices.

"It's hard to say no to anybody," he said. "That leads us to do a lot of partial filling of requests.

"At the same time," Dunfield said, "we need to look at our priorities and see if there's some agencies we need to fund at the expense of others, because they represent a higher priority."

Johnson hopes Operation Wildlife, which treats 5,000 wild animals a year in its facility near Linwood, becomes a priority. Wild animals are a fact of life in Lawrence, she said.

"People say, 'I live in the city, I'm not supposed to have these animals,'" she said. "But you have all that development going on in West Lawrence and the animals need to go somewhere. To them, a chimney looks like a big hollow tree."

The commission starts the hearings at 1:30 p.m. Wednesday in City Hall, Sixth and Massachusetts streets.

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