Confrontation with RSVP could cost Lyon

The future of the Retired and Senior Volunteer Program in Lyon County remains in doubt.

If it wasn't for the extraordinary patience being shown by the RSVP Board and Executive Director Janice Ayres, however, a number of county non-profit organizations would probably already be facing a shortage of volunteers.

A quick history of the situation: Ayres requested $15,000 in support from Lyon County for the current fiscal year, which runs from July 1, 1999, through June 30, 2000. County commissioners allocated only $2,000, the same amount as the previous year.

In July, Ayres said RSVP would pull their services from the county if more support money was not allcoated and requested the commissioners to reconsider their decision. She was turned down 3-2 when commissioners David Fulstone, Bob Milz and Phyllis Hunewill voted to deny another hearing.

The only way the issue can now be properly resolved is for one of the three dissenting commissioners to request it be placed back on the agenda. As I noted in my column of Sept. 10, Milz placed it on the Sept. 16 agenda, only to request it be pulled and placed on the Oct. 7 agenda.

Guess what, folks. It was not there.

Several reasons have been given for the commissioners' continuing procrastination, including: Not wanting to discuss it without all five commissioners present (Fulstone missed the Sept.16 meeting); unhappiness with this columnist promoting the RSVP program and naming of names; rumors the volunteers are not from Lyon County; and, not wanting to deal with the issue until contract negotiations with the sheriff's union are completed.

Directors of some county agencies have also indicated they do not feel they would lose their volunteers if RSVP withdrew, stating their workers are very dedicated, many having been involved before RSVP support became available.

This may be true. Volunteers are special, dedicated human beings. But being willing to forego gas mileage/expense reimbursements is not the only issue. (Though Ayres' numbers show Lyon County has the highest rate of reimbursement requests per volunteer than any other county.)

Volunteers must have on-the-job insurance coverage, and without RSVP support those expenses and liabilities will fall to each agency. In the case of county agencies, that expense will be covered in the form of taxpayer dollars.

Of the $60,000 per year spent by RSVP last year to provide services to Lyon County, approximately $15,000 went directly toward volunteer benefits. Who will be picking up these costs?

Ayres is still trying her best to save what is undoubtedly the best return-for-tax-dollars- spent program in Lyon County. She has made every effort possible to assure all pertinent information regarding RSVP is available to county officials and to fully inform them of every aspect of the program. (I wonder if any commissioners have taken the initiative to visit with Ayres to personally express their concerns and ask questions.)

A meeting of the minds is obviously needed, but how can a compromise be reached without being able to get the issue on a commission agenda?

The RSVP Board's decision to no longer continue funding a county's program if they refuse to show a willingness to help themselves is based on simple economic realities - expenses can not be met without fair and equitable funding support from all 15 counties. Lyon County was the ONLY county to not increase its support this year.

Noting neither she nor her board wants Lyon County to lose its volunteers, she is now willing to wait until the Oct. 21 commission meeting to see what happens before taking steps to curtail RSVP efforts. I would hope the commissioners take Ayre's attempts to reconcile the situation in good faith and not as victories in their apparent attempt to avoid confronting the issue. Forcing a final confrontation could result in a genuine loss for the more than 170 residents benefiting from this program..

Whatever is necessary should be done to keep RSVP in Lyon County. It saves organizations and taxpayers money. Even at a cost to the county of $10,000 to $15,000 it would be nothing but a winning situation for all. To lose it would cost us all - in more than just dollars.

Time and patience is running out. And for the life of me, I cannot comprehend why the board of commissioners is taking this confrontational stand. The investment would be peanuts compared to what is received in return. And to say this $10,000 to $15,000 might be essential to settling labor negotiations with the Sheriffs union is unbelievable!

The old saying of "Those who bury their heads in the sand deserve to have their butts shot off" fits this dilemma to a tee.

The only problem is, those with their heads buried seem to have no concern whatsoever with those who will lose the most and feel the greatest pain.

Think about it.


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