Bay restores funding for Gulf Coast Women’s Center for Non-Violence
By Cassandra Favre
Sep 7, 2013, 01:00
The Bay St. Louis on Tuesday voted to restore funding for the Gulf Coast Women's Center for Non-Violence, but was at odds with Mayor Les Fillingame over how that funding was cut in the first place.
About 40 people representing the shelter showed up at the budget meeting before Tuesday's regular city council session to protest the cut, which happened at an Aug. 28 workshop.
Fillingame said the council had voted at the workshop to kill the $2,500 in funding for the center, while council members argued that Fillingame had labeled the funds merely as "other" in his budget recommendations, not specifying they were earmarked for the Women's Center.
During Tuesday's budget workshop, Fillingame presented to the council the updated projected budget, which according to Fillingame included "eliminating the $2,500 that we had added to the support for the Women's Center for Non-Violence.
"Mr. Mayor, that $2,500 was just for other support, that wasn't for Women of Non-Violence," Ward Four Councilman Bobby Compretta said.
"I would like to say that I had somehow missed the fact (that the funds were meant for the shelter) when recommending they not be included," Ward Two Councilwoman Wendy McDonald said. "I think it should be included and there are a lot of people here that contribute a lot of time – it's almost a quality of life issue.
"The purpose of a non-profit is to back-fill into things that cities, counties and government can't afford to do. I think that this particular group does an enormous job back-filling in an area that we're desperately short-handed on in this county.
"I'm pretty sure that the $2,500 is very well spent."
"I'm not being rude, " Bay St. Louis Police Chief Mike DeNardo said. "But if you don't fund them, I'm going to ask you to increase my budget because we're going to be doing a lot more (work on complaints of) aggravated assaults and domestic violence. Women and children have no place to go.
"We fund the library and chamber. If they have to leave their house in the middle of the night, then they can go to the library and spend all night reading books? Or find out what festival is going on that night at the Chamber, stay there till midnight?
"It's been proven. We're going to see an increase in aggravated assaults. When a woman has no place to go, she goes back home with her kids.
"What's going to happen is the fights are going to start again."
"I was asked to point out a couple of bits of information about the Gulf Coast Women's Center for Non-Violence, " Bay resident Mike Hemsley said. "Twenty-five percent of their funds must come from local sources or they are not eligible for state and federal funds. 164 women from Bay St. Louis have been helped, actually it's adults and children, who have been served by the center.
"Bay St. Louis is six percent of the people they serve. The council funds safety for the city fire and police. If they don't help the Women's Center, the women have no place to go."
"We even have support groups for people who have had a family member who has been a victim of homicide," Gulf Coast Women's Center for Non-Violence Board Member Christina Richardson said. "And this is an organization I've been with for two months, and I'm totally astounded by the work that they do.
"I urge you to show your support for two reasons: One, it's the right thing to do; and secondly, by Bay St. Louis showing their support, gives us the ability to tell other counties, other cities that Bay St. Louis is doing it and we need your help too to get that 25 percent funding."
Council members voted to put the Women's Center back on the budget and Councilman Joey Boudin requested to change the line item "other" to Women's Center.
"I think the mayor threw us under the bus," Boudin said on Wednesday. "It was marked other, that money was never designated to the women's center.
"The council as a whole took it out (because we had) no idea what it was for, but now it's back in the budget. The women's center is a worthwhile project."
"It made it confusing," McDonald said. "I didn't realize it had been pulled out. "They need to be more clear when marking."
"There shouldn't have been any confusion," Fillingame said. "They knew what it was for. It's marked 'other' until an appropriation is made."
Bay City Clerk David Kolf said the $2,500 support was marked as 'other' because "there is no account for the Women's Center. Lisa Wilbourn sends her request here and we just forward it to council."
Wilbourn is the resource development director for the Women's Center and is responsible for its grant writing and fundraising.
"We started asking for support three years ago," Wilbourn said. "The community of women here heard about the budget cut and just decided to do something about it.
"I'm very thankful to the council for funding this community of women and supporting our foundation."
CASA member Rhonda Gamble was credited with forming a group to attend Tuesday's meeting.
"It upset me," Gamble said. "I was frustrated when I found out that night. I was at the Lady Beware class that night and asked all the women at class if they would go rally with me at the next meeting and be heard. I felt this was a powerful statement not just to the council but to everyone," Gamble said. "The city has the obligation to keep the community safe."
"Rhonda called me and told me we needed to be there on Tuesday,"
In other action, the council:
• Adopted an ordinance to regulate the carrying in public and public discharge of any weapon identified in Miss. Code Ann. 97-37-1 within the city limits of Bay St. Louis, consistent with Miss. Code Ann. 45-9-101 as a cautionary emergency measure.
According to Bay St. Louis Police Chief Mike De Nardo, "this ordinance is a standard that is being used by other municipalities in the state."
Council added a list of public buildings in the city to be considered sensitive places. They are the municipal court, council chambers, the city's public parks, city hall, police and fire departments, community hall, the depot, old city hall buildings on Court Street and Second Street, splash pad and the athletic complex.