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Mediation center helps resolve issues free of charge

December 06, 2010|By DAN DEARTH | dan.dearth@herald-mail.com
  • Jack Carpenter is the new executive director of the Washington County Community Mediation Center in Hagerstown.
By Ric Dugan/Staff Photographer

HAGERSTOWN — Free help is available for Washington County residents who need assistance resolving issues ranging from marital problems to neighborhood disputes.
Jack Carpenter, the newly appointed executive director of the Washington County Community Mediation Center at 101 Summit Ave. in Hagerstown, said the organization has about 20 mediators who are trained to handle a variety of problems.
He said mediation allows people to resolve their own problems, rather than letting a third party do it in the judicial system.  
“It’s available to anyone who has conflict,” Carpenter said. “You don’t have to use the court system to resolve problems.”
Carpenter said the center’s mediators handle disputes between feuding neighbors, parents and children, spouses or partners, friends and roommates, landlords and tenants, businesses and co-workers. About 85 percent to 90 percent of the cases that go through voluntary mediation result in an agreement, he said.
The mediation center’s annual budget is about $110,000, Carpenter said. Most of that money is provided by the state, but the center holds fundraisers, such as bingo events and yard sales, to supplement its funding. He said the center also gets money from the Gaming Commission, United Way and the Rotary Club, among others.
Mediators have to complete at least 40 hours of training before they are paired with a mentor, he said. At least two people work each case.
Carpenter said mediations can last anywhere from minutes to several sessions.
“It just depends on the issue and how entrenched the problem is,” he said. “The sooner we can get involved, the easier it is to untangle things.”
Clients can come in off the street, Carpenter said, but they’re also referred to the center by the courts.
“We work around schedules to accommodate people,” said Carpenter, adding that the center handled 105 mediation cases in fiscal year 2009-10.
Carpenter replaced Valerie Main as the center’s executive director.


On the Web
To learn more about the Washington County Community Mediation Center, call 301-665-9262 or go to www.wccmc.org.

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