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Status of PAL grant may affect HotSpots program

July 06, 2003|by SCOTT BUTKI

scottb@herald-mail.com

Three Hagerstown City Council members want to know more about a decision to discontinue state grant funding for the Hagerstown Area Police Athletic League's youth-based program before acting on a request for about $45,000 to help pay for Hagerstown HotSpots after-school programs.

HotSpots coordinator Carolyn Brooks made the request for the $45,000 at Tuesday's council meeting and asked for an answer that night. She wanted to mention that commitment when soliciting money from the Washington County Commissioners at this week's meeting.

Brooks told the council she has been promised state money amounting to $120,396 - about 50 percent of the $220,000 requested for the program budget for this year.

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Councilmen Kristin B. Aleshire and Lewis C. Metzner told her they needed more information about a Washington County organization's decision on PAL before voting on her request. Metzner also had questions about whether the programs were overlapping or redundant.

On Thursday, City Councilman N. Linn Hendershot said he agreed with their position.

Also on Thursday, Brooks said the programs are different and a comparison can lead to confusion. The PAL program is on-site at its headquarters at Fairgrounds Park, for example, while the HotSpots program is at four community schools, she said.

She hopes the city and county will come up with $91,000 needed to continue paying for HotSpots after-school programs at Bester, Fountaindale, Winter Street and Eastern elementary schools, she said. About 20 students are helped at each school, she said.

"If it is a crime to want to sustain a program, then I am guilty," Brooks said.

If she does not get money from the city or county, she may apply for a $40,000 one-year grant the Washington County Community Partnership for Children and Families is taking bids on for an after-school program, Brooks said.

Brooks, a member of the Community Partnership's board, said she would abstain from voting on her project.

At its June 20 meeting, the board was told that staff members had decided funding for the PAL program needed to end because it was not meeting state requirements, Director Stephanie Stone said. She said she had met with County Administrator Rodney Shoop, who agreed with the decision.

Brooks said the only decision for the board to make was whether the grant should go to another organization or if all agencies should get another chance to bid on the project. She voted to re-bid the project, which was what the board decided, she said.

At that point she did know how much money she would get from the state, she said.

Aleshire said his questions on the PAL decision include whether Shoop was acting at the direction of the Washington County Commissioners when he agreed with Stone that the funding should end.

The County Commissioners were not informed of the issue until the June 24 meeting, Commissioner William J. Wivell said Thursday.

Hagerstown Finance Director Al Martin said the city has about $45,000 set aside in its budget for HotSpots-related funding but wants to have issues related to the PAL grant resolved first.

City Councilwoman Penny May Nigh and Carol Moller said Thursday they are prepared to give funding to HotSpots soon rather than waiting for answers to questions about PAL.

City Police Officer Brett McKoy, who became PAL's full-time coordinator in September 2002, has said he wasn't given a "fair shake" by the Community Partnership for Children and Families regarding the grant, which paid $43,479 for his salary.

Stone disagrees, saying he was told of the group's concerns about a decrease in the number of students participating and how often the program was open.

McKoy could not be reached for comment Thursday.

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