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County cuts off PAL grant

July 23, 2003|by TARA REILLY

tarar@herald-mail.com

The Washington County Commissioners on Tuesday decided not to renew a $40,000 grant for the Hagerstown Area Police Athletic League, despite pleas from City of Hagerstown officials to give the program more time.

The County Commissioners voted 3-2 to rebid the state grant and make the money available to other agencies.

The grant money paid for the salary of Hagerstown Police Officer Brett McKoy to serve as the Police Athletic League's (PAL) full-time coordinator.

McKoy took over those duties in September 2002.

As a condition of the grant, McKoy was charged with setting up an after-school mentoring program to serve about 20 to 30 students. He also was charged with coordinating other PAL functions, including a variety of sports activities, according to the contract between the city and the county.

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Washington County Community Partnership Director Stephanie Stone said Community Partnership had concerns that the after-school program didn't start in a timely manner, didn't attract enough kids, wasn't open enough hours and didn't provide the required number of character education and alcohol and tobacco sessions.

Community Partnership was set up to manage and administer county grants dealing with children and families.

City Director of Administrative Services John Budesky told the commissioners that while the after-school component could have been improved, McKoy was successful in carrying out his other duties. He said McKoy met his other responsibilities despite having no paid staff to help him and that the city stands behind him and PAL.

Commissioners President Gregory I. Snook and Commissioner James F. Kercheval said they were willing to work with the city on the matter and renew the grant.

But Commissioners Vice President William J. Wivell made a motion to rebid the grant and Commissioners Doris J. Nipps and John C. Munson voted in favor of the motion.

Snook and Kercheval opposed the motion.

Wivell said he wanted to see what other organizations would be interested in running the after-school program.

Hagerstown Police Chief Arthur Smith suggested before the vote that the county establish an improvement plan that PAL would be required to follow. The commissioners could then base their decision to renew or not renew the grant based on whether PAL met those standards.

"That way you could hold Brett's and our feet to the fire," Smith said.

McKoy said by phone he was disappointed with the commissioners' decision, but that PAL would continue helping children.

"PAL will continue to be there and ... continue to take care of the kids who need it," McKoy said. "It may be at a slower pace, but it will get done."

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