Rincon will take part in the summer Feed-a-Kid program after Mayor Ken Lee, in a rare move, was forced to cast a tie-breaking vote.
The measure passed 4-3 after the six council members deadlocked on the proposal. The mayor votes only in instances where there is a tie.
Council members Ken Baxley, Scott Morgan and Levi Scott voted in favor of the $1,500 expenditure for the program this summer; Reese Browher, Ann Daniel and Paul Wendelken opposed it.
“I see Feed-a-Kid as an enticement for a greater benefit,” Mayor Lee said. “I see where it would be a benefit to our children.”
Under the program, children would have activities set up by the Rincon Recreation Department and would get a sandwich lunch, prepared by the inmate cooks at the Effingham County Prison. The program would last 35 days and already exists in Clyo, Guyton and Springfield.
Lee said there were concerns about how much the city would spend for the program and the value the city would get from the program for its money. Council members also asked if this was something the city should be doing.
“I think the concept is good,” Browher said. “This is something we should have been doing a long time ago. My issue is providing lunch. It is not the city of Rincon’s responsibility to provide lunch. No kid in the United States should go hungry. It is the parents’ responsibility to feed their kids.”
Browher, who worked for the Department of Family and Children Services for eight and a half years, added he was concerned the city is taking on a function that is already covered elsewhere.
“We’re getting into a pickle here,” he said. “It boils down to (that) it is not a function of the city. It’s $1,500 this year. Next year, when budgets are tighter, it may be $3,000. I would rather see us explore other options.”
Said council member Paul Wendelken: “I’ve been in municipal government for 14 years, and I never knew it was our function to feed people — it is to provide services.”
Scott, a proponent of the program, said “morally, yes” when asking rhetorically if the council should take part in Feed-a-Kid.
“Do we just turn around turn our backs on these kids?” he asked.
Council members also questioned why the program would start at the 7th Street Park and not at Macomber Park. A need for the 7th Street Park area already had been identified and it is estimated about 40 kids would take part.
In addition to the lunch, which is reserved for children only, Rincon Recreation Department Director David Wooten said he would arrange for activities for the kids to take part in.
County Clerk Patrice Crawley told council members that an average of 41 kids in June and 36 in July take part in the Guyton program. At Clyo, there is an average of 59 kids taking part in June and 58 in July. Each site also requires a supervisor and a monitor, who are trained in their tasks.
The state, through its Bright From the Start program, approves each site for Feed-a-Kid. Because of the interest in the 7th Street area of Rincon, Crawley produced data on the number of reduced school lunches among neighborhood children.
The meals cost an average of $2.19 per meal last year but the price is expected to rise slightly.