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Community services funding requests emerge at Paradise Valley Town Council

Paradise Valley Mayor Jerry Bien-Willner
Paradise Valley Mayor Jerry Bien-Willner at Paradise Valley Town Hall where the important matters of the day are deliberated, distilled and debated. (Photo: Arianna Grainey/

Helping those in need, support for ‘The Railroad Park’ top the list

By Terrance Thornton | Digital Free Press

“It is one thing to identify a problem and another thing completely to be a part of the solution,” said Paradise Valley Jerry Bien-Willner Thursday, May 11, at Paradise Valley Town Hall, 6401 E. Lincoln Drive. “I support all of these efforts emphatically — speaking for myself, there is a moral imperative to do the right thing.”

Paradise Valley Town Clerk Duncan Miller came to Town Council with funding requests last week — ones that will ultimately be decided at a May 25 public hearing — meant to help the region and in particular those aging in place here in the Town of Paradise Valley.

Funding requests on regional social services including efforts allocated through the Maricopa Association of Governments range from make-shift shelters and beds to mental health services for those experiencing homelessness.

Also, Mr. Miller brought a one-time funding request for a new structure at the McCormick-Stillman Railroad Park at Indian Bend and Scottsdale roads, which is a stone’s throw from Paradise Valley town limits. In detail the requests are:

  • Town Council directed staff to conduct a needs assessment to identify services and programs benefiting undeserved populations in the town or broader community. Staff identified the Central Arizona Shelter Services and Duet: Partners In Health and Aging. The funding requests for CASS in this fiscal year, which ends June 30, is $55,000. The funding request for DUET is $10,000 this current fiscal year.
  • Town Council during its fiscal year 2023-24 budget deliberations discussed an allocation of $200,000 for homeless shelter services through MAG.
  • The Scottsdale Railroad & Mechanical Society approached the Town of Paradise Valley with a funding request of $50,000 to help finance a new facility at what locals from all over the region call ‘The Railroad Park.’
  • Total cost of community services funding proposed is $315,000 this current fiscal year, documents show.

Community services funding requests emerge at Paradise Valley Town Council

While all members of Paradise Valley Town Council expressed a sense of empathy for the plight of those experiencing homelessness the local policymakers also spoke to the need for more attention at the root of the problem.

“I was very encouraged to see that 39% of this goes toward mental health,” said Paradise Valley Councilwoman Christine LaBelle of the $200,000 funding request through MAG. “I like the idea of trying to get to the root cause of homelessness.”

Paradise Valley Councilwoman Julie Pace pointed out she too agrees with a focus on social services as television broadcasts and newspaper headlines continue to shape public opinion around helping others.

“It is interesting to see the jump in need at DUET services,” she said noting Mr. Miller’s discovery that a sharp increase to services needed by DUET is barring out in data points. “I like the social service emphasis. I like the first round of funding.”

Paradise Valley Councilwoman Ellen Andeen went on record saying she supports community services funding allocations but brought into question the $50,000 allocation to the Scottsdale Railroad Mechanical Society.

“I so support the fiscal year 2023-24 community services funding requests,” she said. “I am very sympathetic about those who are homeless, but I don’t believe in enabling the homeless. I would like to see more of addressing the root cause of this issue as Councilwoman LaBelle pointed out.”

However, Councilwoman Andeen says she does not support the funding request at the McCormick-Stillman Railroad Park.

“I am not in support of funding ‘The Railroad Park,’” she said.

Paradise Valley Councilwoman Anna Thomasson disagrees. She points out an event in Glendale received funding from the municipality in a similar spirit of regional cooperation.

“A focus on the homeless here is important, I think that’s not even a question. Philosophically, I agree with all that has been said,” she pointed out. “But if we can give $50,000 to the Super Bowl, we can give $50,000 to the park across the street.”

Paradise Valley Town Council is expected to vote on these funding requests 6 p.m. Thursday, May 25.

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