Commissioners to honor grant even if City Council doesn't

July 12, 2003|by TARA REILLY

The Washington County Commissioners plan to give the former HotSpot Communities program $45,000 for after-school programs regardless of whether the Hagerstown City Council does the same, commissioners President Gregory I. Snook said Friday.

The announcement ended confusion over the commissioners' intentions following their vote last Tuesday on funding for the crime-prevention program. Hours after the vote, commissioners disagreed over whether they had voted to provide the money only if the city provided the same amount.

Snook recommended at the Tuesday meeting that the county approve a $45,000 challenge grant, under which the county would contribute that amount to the program if the city did the same. He then asked that a motion be entertained for the grant.


Commissioner Doris J. Nipps made the motion and it was seconded by Commissioner James F. Kercheval.

After the meeting, Nipps and Kercheval said they thought they had voted to give the program $45,000 regardless of whether the city contributes that amount. Snook and Commissioner John C. Munson said they thought the county's contribution would be contingent on the city's.

The dispute led to Munson making a derogatory comment about Nipps and Kercheval, which he apologized for on Thursday.

"I should not have said that," Munson said. "I apologize for saying that. I apologize to Nipps, Kercheval and to the public that I might have offended."

Still, Munson said Friday he didn't plan to back down on his vote to not give the program $45,000. He said he feared it would lead to a request for more financial help for the program next year.

"We just can't afford it," Munson said. "I think they're very lucky to get it this year."

Snook said Friday that the situation was a misunderstanding and he supports giving the former HotSpot program the money with or without a city contribution. He said the earlier dispute may have resulted from unfamiliarity with the term "challenge grant."

"I don't think they (Nipps and Kercheval) have ever been exposed to that before," Snook said. "We all agree that we all want to give the money to them."

Snook said the commissioners will clarify the matter in the minutes when they meet Tuesday.

HotSpot, a formerly state-funded program that has operated in Hagerstown for more than five years, is now known as CSAFE, for Cooperative Supervision And Focused Enforcement.

Program coordinator Carolyn Brooks told both the commissioners and the City Council that a state budget cut left the organization without $90,000 to pay for after-school programs at Winter Street, Bester, Eastern and Fountaindale elementary schools.

Brooks said Friday she was glad to hear that the majority of the commissioners support giving the $45,000.

"The next step will be to find out what the City Council is planning to do," Brooks said. "I'm really pleased that the commissioners have decided to step up to the plate."

City Councilman Kristin B. Aleshire said Friday he thought it would be irresponsible for the city to contribute $45,000 to the program because the city hasn't heard whether there might be more funding cuts from the state. He said the city should give $17,000 in funds cut from three other organizations earlier in the year.

Councilman N. Linn Hendershot said the city still needs to discuss whether to give money to the program. He said he hopes the city doesn't have to choose between that program and the Hagerstown Area Police Athletic League, for which funding was cut by county staff in June.

"We're going to have to make up our mind which is more important, because we don't have a lot of money," Hendershot said. "I'm hoping it doesn't come down to an and/or."

Meeting transcript

The following is a transcript of part of the July 8 Washington County Commissioners meeting, in which the commissioners voted on whether to give the former HotSpot Communities program $45,000. The commissioners disagreed after the meeting about whether their action was contingent upon the City of Hagerstown contributing the same amount to the program.

Commissioners President Gregory I. Snook: "If - I haven't talked to anybody about this, but I'll throw this out - that if we come up with half of it whether the council will consider the other half."

Program coordinator Carolyn Brooks: "I hope so. I hope so".

Snook: "It's only, I guess, a challenge ... and see whether the group wants to continue going forward."

Commissioner James F. Kercheval then mentioned the successes of the program.

Kercheval: "I'd be willing to show support for that."

Snook: "I only made that suggestion to maybe just be strictly a transition period, because they could drop it next year at the state. I agree that this is a challenge ... a challenge for doing this, because we have budget issues ourself."

Snook also said if the program receives no state funding next year, the county isn't big enough to give more than the $45,000 match.

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