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Nigh critical of council's decision

October 31, 2003|by SCOTT BUTKI

scottb@herald-mail.com

Hagerstown City Councilwoman Penny May Nigh on Thursday said the city government did an "injustice" by not following up on what she considered a promise to give $17,500 to the program formerly known as HotSpot Communities.

But City Administrator Bruce Zimmerman said the Hagerstown City Council never took action on the funding request during a voting session.

At a mid-July work session, a majority of council members gave general approval to giving $17,500 to the program now known as CSAFE, he said. However, straw votes taken at council work sessions are not binding, he said.

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Carolyn Brooks, CSAFE program coordinator, said she thought the city had pledged funding.

"From a citizen's perspective, it sounded like money had been set aside for the program," she said. "From the outside, that was the appearance."

Nigh said it seemed to her that the city had pledged the money.

At Tuesday's council meeting, Nigh said she thought a vote on whether to fund a REACH day shelter should be tabled until the city could be sure the decision would not jeopardize money previously committed to CSAFE.

Her motion to table the issue failed and the council voted to give $17,700 to REACH.

"I think it is pretty sad when our government thinks more of homeless people than of our children that need after-school programs," Nigh said later in the meeting.

Councilwoman Carol Moller said she was not under the impression that the city had promised money to CSAFE.

Brooks had told both the Washington County 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.

The County Commissioners agreed to give the program $45,000 for after-school programs.

Brooks asked for $45,000 from the city. Instead, a majority of the council members said they supported giving HotSpot $17,500 in funds cut from three other organizations earlier in the year.

Councilmen Lewis C. Metzner and N. Linn Hendershot opposed the council deciding on funding for the program before determining whether money could be found for an after-school mentoring program provided by the Police Athletic League (PAL).

The request never went before the council for action. The council was advised, however, that CSAFE received a $40,000 grant from the Washington County Community Partnership for Children and Families.

Zimmerman said he was unaware until last week that there was any interest in still providing CSAFE with money.

Brooks said she was trying to plan a three-year budget for the program instead of a single-year budget.

Zimmerman said the city does not give money for future years.

Brooks said she does not know if she will ask the city again for money.

"It was a learning process for me," she said.

She said she will evaluate all possible funding sources for future years.

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