Franklin senior travel program keeps moving

Senior trips get more dollars, but with more oversight

Former Franklin Alderman Basil Ryan (standing right) and the common council congratulate Shirley Bird following her last address to the council Jan. 19. Bird has been the travel coordinator for the senior travel program since 2002.

Former Franklin Alderman Basil Ryan (standing right) and the common council congratulate Shirley Bird following her last address to the council Jan. 19. Bird has been the travel coordinator for the senior travel program since 2002.

March 1, 2016

Franklin — The senior travel program is not going away or changing, despite rumors to the contrary and public cost concerns.

After former tour coordinator Shirley Bird and her successor Basil Ryan expressed concerns about the rising cost of travel, the common council in February voted to add $2,000 to the program's $10,000 budget for the 2016 budget year.

Controlling costs

Given concerns about rising costs for the program, the common council on Feb. 16 also agreed to evaluate the current program structure, a measure Alderman Steve Taylor wanted included, as well. That aspect didn't sit well with all alderman, however.

"You're wasting taxpayer money," Alderwoman Susanne Mayer said regarding Taylor's evaluation inclusion, adding that when government gets involved things get "messed up."

"It's called oversight," Taylor rebutted.

The council was at one point considering adding $4,000 to the program budget, a move with which Taylor said he had "major concerns" because "we're pulling $4,000 out of the air."

Mayor Steve Olson, who in January said it was "disgusting" that such "bad information" was spread around regarding the future of the senior program, nonetheless also had concerns about the rising costs, saying the police and fire budgets were cut while the travel program "remained untouched."

"You can't cut my budget, tell me to manage it, and then want more money for something not city-related," Olson said.

Alderwoman Kristen Wilhelm said when the cost of a vehicle goes up the city accommodates. Wilhelm added that Bird ran the program for free and is asking for more funds to keep the program running at the same level it always had, calling this a "small token" for the seniors.

Recognizing Bird

Bird, who took over the travel program as tour coordinator in 2002, gave her final report Jan. 19, and she was honored Feb. 16 with a proclamation from Olson and one from Taylor regarding her "outstanding service."

Taylor said the decision to recognize her for all her work was a unanimous one, adding that it's "rare we all agree."

"It's been an honor to be the leader for the travel program for 15 years," Bird said.

She also thanked Ryan for taking over the program.

Bird previously announced 10 trips in the $10,000 budget for 2016. Those trips include the Fireside Dinner Theater, a German Mardi Gras in Sheboygan Falls, and seeing "Ernest in Love" at a theater in Milwaukee, among others.

She closed her presentation by turning to the crowd and smiling.

"Thank you all for coming," Bird said. "God bless you and I love you all."

Olson thanked Bird, saying he'll miss her reports and he appreciated her work.

"I do have to tell you I'm a bit disappointed that you're leaving us under circumstances that you believe are adverse," Olson said in January.

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