BOC grapples with assisting non-profits

BOC grapples with assisting non-profits

At Thursday night’s County Board of Commissioners meeting, the agenda demanded tough decisions to be made on requests from a pair of non-profits in need of support, both staring at rent difficulties. Fayette Factor asked for $7,000, and Fayette Care Clinic sought $14,000.

Fayette Factor is a collaborative of local businesses, civic leaders, law enforcement, lawyers and judges, faith-based and school-based organizations, families, child advocates, and public and private human services providers banding together to build a safe and drug-free Fayette through education, networking, and advocacy.

From late 2001 until March 2013, Factor was given space rent-free at the Department of Drivers Services. Due in part to a parking space crunch, the decision was made to relocate. Their rent was recently raised, leading to a budget shortfall.

“We do try to be good stewards of our money. We try to generate funds so that we can do good work in the community,” said Dawn Oparah, a board member of Fayette Factor. “We’re in the position where we could be homeless because we cant afford the rent.”

Commissioner Charles Rousseau made a motion to approve the assistance for one year, while instructing staff to review the county’s non-profit positions to determine how best to handle requests going forward.

“We do need a longterm strategy,” he said. “We need to be able to comprehensively look at the use of taxpayer dollars as you all assist this community with filling some very, very strategic gaps in service.”

Commissioner Steve Brown lamented the strangeness of the situation.

“This is just a weird can of worms because your landlord is a non-profit we’ve already written a check for,” he said. “It’s an odd situation that someone we’ve given a grant to (Bloom) is raising your rent, and now we have to pay you for you to give it to the person we just gave the grant to. That’s bizarre.”

Though he would vote in support, Commissioner Randy Ognio said he was really struggling with his vote.

“I don’t like the fact that Board is taking taxpayer dollars and giving it out to non-profit organizations when taxpayers themselves are not making the decision,” said Ognio, adding that they are being put in a tough position. “If we approve this one, there are a lot of non-profits out there, and how many more will line up at the door for their part?

“Approving one makes it hard to deny the next one.”

While the Board voted 4-0, Oddo recusing himself, to approve the funds for Fayette Factor, the next item on the agenda would see them deny the request from Fayette Care Clinic.

Fayette Care Clinic is a non-profit that assists Fayette County’s uninsured and working poor by providing medical, dental, vision, dermatology, cardiology, physical therapy, gynecology, and chiropractic care.

In speaking to the Board, Dr. Loida Bonney, Executive Director, laid out what Fayette Care Clinic does for the community. In 2016 alone, FCC provided more than 3,000 health care service visits to 750 patients, and more than 100 medical professionals and lay persons volunteered over 4,000 hours. The total dollar value of those services comes to $2.2 million.

As with the Factor request, Rousseau made a motion to approve the requested support for one year with the study.

“This is a very difficult position, and I do not harbor any ill will against my colleagues,” he said. “This is the authorization and usage of funds that we have not properly budgeted for. I understand that, but we have vulnerable populations in this community that we have a responsibility, to some degree, to assist. How best to go about it is where we’re stuck.”

He pointed back to the struggle in getting state law corrected to allow for disabled veterans to receive retroactive homestead exemptions and how some commissioners were willing to help even before law was changed.

“We take on those kinds of challenges sometimes,” he said. “I’m willing to support this because there are individuals that find themselves in need.

“I’m prepared to put myself out there on this particular issue,” he continued. “I do know why you all have challenges adopting it, but I ask you to move beyond that and give this favorable consideration.”

Oddo lamented the tough position he felt the Board was put in with no clear plan of how to deal with non-profit requests.

“We’re not there as a county at this point,” he said. “I would like to, if we’re going to move in that direction, have a plan before we move.”

Rousseau alluded to a long-standing relationship that has seem Bloom receive support from the County for some time.

“This organization that we’ve been giving almost $20,000 to for 10 years needs to be reevaluated as well.”

Chairman Eric Maxwell sided with Rousseau because he could not reconcile voting one up and one down.

“I cannot vote for one right before this one and then vote the opposite for the very next one that’s a very similar organization, so I’m going to vote for it,” he said.

The request would still fail, 2-3, Rousseau and Maxwell in support and Ognio, Oddo, and Brown in opposition.

Though he voted in opposition, Brown immediately offered his help to FCC.

“Call me, and I’ll help you raise the $14,000.”

County Administrator Steve Rapson noted he thought likely the cleanest way going forward to handle supporting non-profits would be to develop an intergovernmental agreement between the county and the entity that provides the service, tying it to services rendered to Fayette residents.

 

Update: A non-profit request at the most recent County Board of Commissioners may have made another group appear unfairly stingy thanks to an error in the presentation.
Fayette Care Clinic was seeking $14,000 from the County to help with rent costs, and a grant from Clothes Less Traveled was referenced. County staff incorrectly stated the granting history between the two organizations, leading to Clothes Less Traveled receiving calls over what seemed to be a drastic reduction for a long-standing grantee.
In a letter to Fayette Newspapers, Tammy Turk, Clothes Less Traveled Board President, noted that, while Fayette Care Clinic applied for a $60,000 grant in 2017, they have never previously received that amount. In recent years, Fayette Care Clinic has received $30,000, $40,000, and $35,000 in years 2014, 2015 and 2016 respectively. This year, they received $16,000.
“In 2017, Clothes Less Traveled experienced a significant increase in grant requests, and, although our total granting was similar to prior years, we were unable to sustain the prior grant levels for some of our grantees as we added new grantees to our supported organizations,” said Turk. “Under our granting guidelines, no organization is guaranteed granting from year to year, nor are grantees guaranteed any specific amount. Clothes Less Traveled remains committed to helping wonderful organizations such as Fayette Care Clinic in our granting area.”

Christopher Dunn

Managing Editor Christopher Dunn has been with the Fayette County News since 2011, in addition to running Fayette Victory magazine. He is a graduate of Fayette County schools, as well as a graduate of Georgia State University with a degree in journalism. Follow him on twitter @fayettesports.