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Grant vote brings confusion

July 09, 2003|by TARA REILLY

tarar@herald-mail.com

The Washington County Commissioners on Tuesday voted on whether to provide money to the financially strapped program formerly called HotSpot Communities, but hours after the meeting, they didn't agree on exactly what they voted for.

Commissioners President Gregory I. Snook said after the meeting that he and Commissioners James F. Kercheval and Doris J. Nipps had agreed to give HotSpot, now called CSAFE - Cooperative Supervision and Focused Enforcement - a $45,000 grant if the Hagerstown City Council also contributed $45,000.

Snook described the vote as being for a "challenge grant," meaning county funding would be provided only if the city met the challenge and gave the same amount.

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A press release issued by County Spokesman Norman Bassett contained the same information.

Commissioners Vice President William J. Wivell and Commissioner John C. Munson voted against the action.

However, Nipps and Kercheval said after the meeting that they voted to provide CSAFE with $45,000 without the condition that the city contribute the same amount.

Nipps made the motion and Kercheval seconded it.

Nipps said she didn't remember her exact wording when she made the motion, but that she never said the funding was contingent upon city funding.

She said she would have to listen to the tape of the meeting and that the commissioners would have to clear up any confusion at next week's meeting.

But she said her intention was that CSAFE receive $45,000 from the county regardless of the city's decision and that the commissioners should abide by her intention.

Nipps said some confusion may have been caused by Snook's use of the term "challenge grant."

Kercheval said he never would have voted for the action if the funding was contingent on a matching contribution from the city.

"I'd never do a vote on that," Kercheval said. "Unless I missed that, I don't think that's the way it was. Typically, I don't do that. We make our decision and (the city) makes theirs."

Snook said in two phone interviews after the meeting that he had a different understanding of the motion.

"It was a challenge grant. I assumed everyone understood," Snook said.

Munson said after the meeting that county funding for CSAFE was contingent upon a city contribution of the same amount and that Nipps and Kercheval had misunderstood the vote.

"Nipps and Kercheval don't know what's going on," Munson said.

Nipps and Kercheval said they had no comment about Munson's statement.

Wivell did not return two phone calls after Tuesday's meeting.

CSAFE Coordinator Carolyn Brooks had asked both the city and the county for money to help make up for a $90,000 shortfall caused by a cut of about 50 percent in state funding.

Brooks said she was notified by the state on June 30 that the program would receive $120,396, down from the $260,000 it received last year. The program is funded by the Governor's Office of Crime Control and Prevention.

As a result of the cut, she told the commissioners that CSAFE did not have enough money to provide after-school programs at four area elementary schools.

The after-school programs are held at Bester, Winter Street, Eastern and Fountaindale elementary schools and reach about 150 to 160 students a year.

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