The foster care program in Blanding once again took center stage at the July 25 meeting of the Blanding City Council. It ended in the creation of a citizen-funded donation account for foster children.
Allowing free access to the wellness center for foster children was brought back to the council by Councilwoman Cheryl Bowers.
Bowers said a lot of information was not available at the July 11 council meeting, where the issue was initially discussed, due to the absence of a representative from the foster care community.
Utah Foster Adopt Consultant Joel Redd was first to speak. Redd said the council did not understand what was being asked at the last meeting.
“I am really not asking for a freebie” said Redd. He explained that foster children are wards of the state and belong, quite literally, to everyone in the state. They are financially as much your responsibility, as they are my responsibility, said Redd.
Redd presented information about the cost of foster children, saying Blanding residents would pay approximately 50 cents a year to allow foster children free access to the swimming pool at the Wellness Center.
His approximation is based on Councilman Joe B Lyman’s estimate of annual revenue lost by allowing foster children free swimming. Redd also discussed what the state curpays per foster child.
A Level One child (with foster parents and adjusting well) costs taxpayers pennies each day. A child in Level Two costs taxpayers $2 or $3 a day.
When a child moves to Level Three (not adjusting, needs more help and constant “line of sight” supervision) the cost for taxpayers is about $14 a day.
Redd explained that the community needs to be pro-active in order to keep children at Level One.
Pro-active includes allowing children easy access to physical activity. These are children who, through no fault of their own, are high risk. Therapists recommend these children receive “a heavy does of physical activity”.
High physical activity regulates emotions, reduces impulsive behavior, and produces dopamine, which reduces the risk of suicide. Suicide and suicide attempts, Redd reminded the council, also require more taxpayer money.
Redd closed by asking the council to not only make an investment in children but also to invest tax money wisely.
Councilwoman Bowers thanked Redd and said that most of this information was not available at the last meeting.
Councilman Joe B. Lyman said, “You have to care about everyone” and lamented that there are other kids at risk. He asked if foster kids are so significantly different than other “at risk” children. He also reminded council of the cost to run the Wellness Center.
Lyman said that charity should not be forced on the residents of Blanding and wanted to give residents the opportunity to contribute to foster care children individually. Lyman suggested a city fund for residents to donate to if they feel inclined.
Councilman Taylor Harrison said it shouldn’t be a city responsibility to allow these children easier access to the Wellness Center. Harrison said he too has been a foster parent, but said that allowing free access to the Wellness Center does not alleviate any taxpayer expense.
Harrison echoed Lyman’s opinion that the city role should be to manage a fund, not fund a program.
Councilman Robert Ogle asked about the appropriate role of government and said foster care is not the role of government, as foster children are placed with private citizens.
Councilman Lyman motioned for a volunteer donation fund, and it passed unanimously.
City Manger Jeremy Redd said work will be needed to manage the fund. Donate at the city office or through the utility bill. The fund will pay for passes to foster children until the money runs out.
Another topic involving the Wellness Center was brought to the council in open forum. County resident Cody Nielson said he pays for a Wellness Center family pass year-round but has some problems with the center.
Nielson said the Wellness Center is overrun in the evenings and is not managed in a way that allows access to everyone. He said there is no way to get a court and the music in the weight room is inappropriate. He made several requests for more weights, but feels his requests are ignored.
Nielson said he would like to be equal to everyone else, but that is not how it feels when college students arrive in the evening. The council has heard similar complaints from other residents within the past year.
Councilman Lyman said the college students who use the Wellness Center are an “identifiable demographic”, so they are picked on. He said they pay what Nielson pays, so their passes are “equal”.
The council also discussed changing the playground equipment at Centennial Park. City Manager Redd said the equipment needs to be replaced for safety and liability.
The city is looking for a solid mat that would allow water though and is safer for children. There are also issues with sand blowing out of the playground and onto the grass. A motion to accept bids for the project passed unanimously.
In other news, Blanding is taking part in a study to create energy from natural gas compressor stations. When the gas is compressed, heat is created. Currently, most compressor stations just release the heat. The idea is that the heat waste can be turned into electric energy. This energy is considered “green energy”.
Blanding City is one of many cities that are participating in the study. Blanding and the other cities will have first claim if energy is created.