MINERVA - A bit of controversy erupted at the Minerva town board meeting this week as numerous Johnsburg residents - some Minerva taxpayers - were angered by the town's decision to limit enrollment in the youth program exclusively to children who attend Minerva Central School.
For years, the town has allowed children who live in neighboring communities to enroll in the program for a $200 tuition fee. But this year, officials said that budgetary concerns and staffing problems require a tightening of the proverbial belt.
"The youth program has gotten out of control and it is time to reign it in," Minerva Supervisor Mike McSweeney said June 4. "The program is meant to serve the youth of Minerva and that is our only obligation."
However, McSweeney's sentiments only further angered several parents in the audience.
"I am totally and utterly disgusted with the town's stance," Johnsburg resident and mother of two Pattie Ordway said. "My family has been paying taxes in Minerva since 1940."
Ordway and fellow Johnsburg resident Linnea Newman offered to chip-in funds to be used to hire an additional waterfront counselor.
According to town officials, there aren't enough counselors to allow for non-resident children to participate in the program.
Ordway offered the town $1,500 and Newman offered $2,000 to hire an additional counselor.
"This offer comes with strings that could carry on for years to come," McSweeney said.
Both Ordway and Newman refute that any strings were attached to the offer.
"It was a one-year solution," Newman said. "We have tried to fix the problem but the town is taking a hard-line."
At present, the 2009 town budget includes $31,000 in primary funding for the youth program. This money doesn't cover the cost of busing, McSweeney said.
Johnsburg has a youth program, but Ordway said that the Minerva program has a high quality water safety component that is lacking in her hometown.
There are currently around 65 Minerva youth enrolled in the program under the direction of nine counselors, officials said.
At present, as many as 10 Johnsburg youth have been added to a waiting list, in case openings become available.
"I don't think we can cut-out activities like field trips in order to facilitate non-residents," Councilman Doug McCall said. "Our responsibility is to the kids of Minerva."
The town's argument didn't sway Newman.
"If the issue was money, we came up with a way to fix it - if it was staffing, we found someone interested in the job," she said. "I think we called their bluff."