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City may not fund housing program

May 04, 2001

City may not fund housing program



By DAN KULIN

dank@herald-mail.com

A housing program aimed at keeping residents of the Hagerstown YMCA off the streets after the YMCA moves will probably not receive any funding from the City of Hagerstown, a majority of council members predicted Thursday.

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Despite their reluctance to fund the program, the Mayor and council members agreed the residential program proposed by the Washington County Community Action Council is probably needed.

CAC Executive Director Cheryl Walkley said without adequate funding from the city and/or Washington County, the program will not exist. Without the program, as many as 20 to 25 men would become homeless, Walkley said.

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Three of the five council members said there isn't enough support on the council to fund the $51,000 requested from the city by CAC. The council is considering a tax increase for the upcoming fiscal year, and council members are still looking for ways to cut, not add, to the proposed budget.

"We can't afford to do it this year," said Councilman Alfred W. Boyer.

Councilman William M. Breichner said, "I think it's a done issue ... I don't think there's any money for it."

"I feel we should do it but I don't know how. It's rather clear the current council ... is not going to fund it," Councilman Lewis C. Metzner said.

But Councilwoman Susan Saum-Wicklein says the council has not decided the issue.

"There is no consensus on that ... If city has the ability (to fund the CAC program), it should," Saum-Wicklein said, adding that any city contribution would probably be less than $51,000.

Councilman J. Wallace McClure said the city should give this CAC program the same amount it gives to CASA, a shelter for abused women. CASA is budgeted to receive $21,500 in the upcoming fiscal year, which begins July 1. McClure said the city should provide an equal amount to the CAC program or cut the contribution to CASA.

Also, McClure criticized the YMCA for cutting the resident program.

YMCA representatives have said they couldn't afford to continue the residency program at their new location.

YMCA Executive Director Michael Flicek said Thursday that the YMCA is working to find new housing for its residents.

"We just haven't dropped it. ... We're making sure the people living here have adequate housing," Flicek said.

He said the CAC program represents a housing solution for some of the residents. He said if it does not exist, "We would have to continue looking for housing."

Mayor Robert E. Bruchey II said the city should take $51,000 from its reserve funds to help the CAC program.

"It's very important. We're going to have individuals walking out of that building on Aug. 1," Bruchey said.

Last month, CAC representatives asked the city and Washington County Commissioners for $51,000 each to help fund the program for its first year.

CAC is proposing the program because the single rooms for men at the Hagerstown YMCA at 149 N. Potomac St. will not be available after Aug. 1. The YMCA is ending the program as it prepares to move a new building along Eastern Boulevard. Under CAC's plan, a new housing program with up to 50 residential units would open in the Dagmar Hotel on the corner of Summit Avenue and Antietam Street.

Commissioners President Gregory I. Snook said the commissioners have not discussed the CAC request since CAC made the request. He said to fund the CAC program, the commissioners would have to cut something from their proposed budget.

"It's not going to be easy. But I'm not ruling anything out," Snook said.

City and county elected officials said CAC came to them too late in the budget process.

The commissioners are expected to vote on a budget for the upcoming fiscal year on May 15.

The City Council is scheduled to take a final vote on the city budget on May 22.

The CAC program is expected to cost about $186,000, which would cover expenses including subsidies for the rooms and the salaries of two case managers.

Revenues from a trust, grants and other sources would provide about $84,000, leaving about $102,000 unfunded in the first year of the program, according to CAC figures.

Walkley said she could cut $8,000 from the proposed program, but without at least $94,000 from the city and county the program will not exist.

Walkley said the request from the city and county will drop to $57,000 after the first year.

Walkley said Thursday that she is currently applying for additional federal grants that could eliminate the need for city or county funding after the first year.

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