WILLMAR -- Let's Go Fishing, an organization headquartered in Willmar that provides free fishing and boating activities to senior citizens and youngsters around the state, is asking the Willmar City Council for financial support after state funding was cut.
Joe Holm, organization founder and CEO, says nearly 20,000 people in 2011 and more than 70,000 seniors, military veterans and kids have received fishing and boating experiences since Let's Go Fishing was formed 10 years ago. Holm says Let's Go Fishing, which started in Willmar, continues to flourish and just added its 28th chapter in Winona.
Holm says state funding to Let's Go Fishing was cut at a crucial time when the organization just launched a major youth program expansion and was poised to launch more new chapters.
As a result, Let's Go Fishing is forced to seek other funding sources, he said.
Holm is requesting a donation from the city of $50,000 to be paid in $10,000 increments spread over the next five years. Holm made the request on Monday to the council's Finance Committee.
Committee members praised the program but reaction to the request for a donation was mixed.
Rick Fagerlie said Let's Go Fishing is an excellent program but he said the city is already doing its share in maintaining lake accesses and docks. He suggested Holm request funding from service groups.
Holm said the request is not out of line with the number of senior citizens being served. He said the program has helped seniors who have depression.
Ron Christianson expressed appreciation for Let's Go Fishing but said it's tough to draw the line on where government should be involved. He said the city spends a lot of money on the community center, formerly known as the senior citizens center.
"We have to look at where we're spending the taxpayers' money,'' he said. "We have a hiring freeze and we cut the Design Center. How do you justify it?''
Jim Dokken asked if other city governments have been asked for financial support.
Holm said he is starting with Willmar because that's where the program began. He said the Let's Go Fishing board feels that if Willmar will not support the program, neither will other cities.
Mayor Frank Yanish said he supports the program and said he would ask City Administrator Charlene Stevens and Finance Director Steve Okins to look for funds. Yanish said the city's contribution may be something less than the amount requested by Holm.
Dokken said he agreed with Yanish.
Chairman Denis Anderson suggested the committee take Holm's request as information only and not act. Anderson said the Let's Go Fishing request, along with other funding concerns and issues, will be discussed by the full council during a 2012 budget workshop beginning at 5:45 p.m. Monday. The workshop will be held before the regular council meeting convenes at 7 p.m.