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Madison County: Fuel program dealt blow

Four days after receiving unanimous support from members of the Madison County Board of Supervisors' Social and Mental Health Services Committee, a proposed stop-gap program for the county's neediest residents hit roadblock.

Members of the Finance, Ways and Means Committee declined to put the proposition to the full Board of Supervisors after Chairman John M. Becker (R,C,I -- Sullivan) cautioned committee members about starting a program the county will have to fund in perpetuity.

Personnel Director and Interim Budget Officer Mary Krause presented the resolution to FWM on behalf of Department of Social Services Commissioner Michael Fitzgerald, who was unable to attend the Aug. 29 meeting. Krause explained the partnerships forged with Office for the Aging, Community Action Partnership and Stoneleigh Housing to administer the program. She said that those applying for the program would be fast-tracked for weatherization services by Stoneleigh Housing.

"A number of counties have begun local energy assistance programs," Krause said. "Applicants would be evaluated to make sure they have exhausted all other benefits, and we would use the same eligibility guidelines as other heating programs."

"Once we fund this, it's one of those things that's never going to go away," Becker said, prompting discussion that led the committee away from committing to it.

Fitzgerald asked informally at the July SMH committee meeting if a $25,000 fund could be established to help the people who fall through the cracks. He said $5,000 would be earmarked for this year and $20,000 for 2009.

The issue was presented as a formal resolution at the SMH committee's August meeting.

"I talked to you last month about the concept of having a county energy fund," Fitzgerald said at the Aug. 25 meeting. "I talked to Community Action Partnership, Office for the Aging and Stoneleigh Housing about this. Each of them expends money received from other sources to help people who fall through the cracks. Throughout this, you will see a trend of state aid being down."

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