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Police Athletic League asking for more money

January 26, 2000|By LAURA ERNDE

Five months after getting a $13,000 grant from the Washington County Gaming Commission, a local charity has not started the youth wrestling program it promised.

Despite the delay, the Hagerstown Area Police Athletic League plans to ask the Gaming Commission for another $27,000 next week.

Gaming Commission Chairman Lou Thomas said he'll ask the league to explain the delay on Feb. 2, when the nonprofit group is scheduled to have a hearing before the commission.

League President Brett McKoy said his group has had problems starting the program, but said it will soon open at the Hagerstown Fairgrounds' Clubhouse.

Thomas thought the program would be based at South Hagerstown High School and run by the school's coaches.

"It's the kids who should be thought about," Thomas said.

In its application, the Police Athletic League did not spell out where practices would be held.

However, the application included a letter from South High Coach Brian Brake, outlining a plan to offer free wrestling instruction to area youth.

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Brake said he has been coaching 45 students, ages kindergarten through eighth-grade, since December. He said he has not received any money from the Police Athletic League.

McKoy said he has tried to work with Brake, but had never promised him funding.

McKoy's wife, Pamela McKoy, said the league was concerned there wouldn't be enough adult supervision at South High.

The league tried to bring in extra coaches from the Hagerstown YMCA, but most of those volunteers weren't available during the after-school times the South coaches wanted to practice, she said.

McKoy said the league has spent some of the grant on sponsoring 10 county children enrolled in other wrestling programs. He would not say how much of the grant is left.

It's not unusual for gaming grant money to go unspent for several months. Often, there's a reasonable explanation, Thomas said.

The gaming commissioners, who decide how to distribute money raised from tip jar profits, do not have investigators to ensure that every grant is being spent properly, he said.

The commission asks the nonprofits to document how they spent earlier grants when they apply for more money, he said.

The commission has never asked a charity to return a grant in the four years Thomas has been on the volunteer board, he said.

The Police Athletic League got $3,000 from the Gaming Commission in 1997, which it used to buy roller hockey equipment.

The league used a $4,591 gaming commission grant last year to buy computer equipment.

This time, the league would like $27,000 to purchase a van for taking the wrestling team members to practices and tournaments, McKoy said.

The league has had the free use of the Fairgrounds Clubhouse since 1997 and has been renovating the building with the approval of the city of Hagerstown, said Austin Abraham, the city's project coordinator.

"It's on their own time that they make this happen for the kids," Abraham said.

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