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HotSpots funds likely to be cut

April 14, 2003|by TARA REILLY

tarar@herald-mail.com

The HotSpots Communities crime prevention program will continue in the next fiscal year but is likely to have a new name and "a whole lot less funding," program coordinator Carolyn Brooks said Friday.

Brooks said she probably will have to turn to the City of Hagerstown and Washington County for financial help.

"No doubt I'm going to have to appeal to the county and the city," Brooks said.

Government officials said they didn't think they'd be able to bail HotSpots out.

Early this year, those involved with HotSpots were uncertain whether Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. would end the program by not providing money for it in the state's fiscal 2004 budget.

Brooks said she found out a few weeks ago that Ehrlich allocated $3.5 million to the statewide program.

That is a significant reduction from when HotSpots began about five years ago.

HotSpots, an initiative of former Lt. Gov. Kathleen Kennedy Townsend, started in 1997 with an $11 million budget, made up of state and federal dollars.

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In Hagerstown, the program covers costs that include two city police officers to work in the designated HotSpots area, after-school programs and Brooks' position.

Funding has gone down steadily since 1997. Shortly after the Sept. 11, 2002, attacks, the HotSpots state budget was at $8 million.

Brooks said 62 HotSpots groups in the state will have to compete for a slice of Ehrlich's $3.5 million contribution to the program.

That means Hagerstown's HotSpots program, which received $260,000 from the state for the current year, will likely take a major hit.

Brooks will find out June 1 how much money the local HotSpots program will receive from the state, but she anticipates as much as a 50 percent reduction.

If that's the case, she said she hopes the city and county governments will pitch in to make up the difference.

Hagerstown Mayor William M. Breichner has said the city is struggling with a $2 million budget shortfall and he didn't think it would be able to help out.

Washington County Commissioners Vice President William J. Wivell said Friday he didn't think the county, which is facing a nearly $5.3 million shortfall, was in a position to contribute to HotSpots.




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