Fayette County News

Fayette County


Non-profits ask county to hold off on ‘no policy’ policy

Calling it a wise suggestion, Commissioner Charles Rousseau and his fellow commissioners agreed with the leadership from several key local non-profit groups that it would be best to gather together and decide the best way to move forward before accepting staff’s recommendation to not have a non-profit policy.

Over the summer, the Board of Commissioners grappled with whether or not to assist a pair of non-profits asking for help with rent shortfalls. Having supported Bloom Our Youth for many years, commissioners would approve $7,000 for Fayette Factor and say no to $14,000 for Fayette Care Clinic. At that time, staff was tasked with determining how to best handle requests from non-profit groups to the county going forward. At Thursday night’s meeting, staff recommended not creating a non-profit policy and instead entering into contractual agreements when it is determined that the group is providing a needed service to residents. Taking each on a case-by-case service basis would eliminate the need for an overarching policy.

“It’s not that we cannot enter into a non-profit agreement, it’s that contractually when you do so, you can’t really pick and choose which non-profits is the primary concern at this point,” said County Administrator Steve Rapson.

Becky Smith, Director of Fayette Factor, asked the commissioners to table the discussion until the groups could gather with the county and discuss the best way to move forward together.

“My counterparts in the metro Atlanta area, most of them are working with their commissioners to bring forth block grants that are either federal funds or else just a community grant process that comes from taxpayer dollars,” said Smith, saying that a roundtable could help vet non-profit groups before they come before the Board and inundate them with requests. “Let us talk through some opportunities where you would not have to be the bad guy. We would bring together a committee that would be the ones that would vet.”

Dawn Oparah, Co-Chair of Factor, shared the sentiment that there was no need to rush into a decision. That would give time for minds on both sides to come together.

“Are we asking that county government should be just spending their money on non profits?. No,” said Oparah. “There are really good models out there in terms of government partnerships with their community. Let us come back and present best practices and models of what could happen before you make a decision.”

Terry Ernst, Peachtree City councilman and VP of Bloom Our Youth, got emotional explaining how much local non-profit groups do for people in need. Bloom, for instance, was just named the best foster care program in the area.

“These children would not have a place to go if we didn’t provide them with foster care,” said Ernst, choking back tears. “We’re just asking you to consider that before you make your decision.

“Please consider what you do and those organizations that really support the children and the community.”

Ernst affirmed that Peachtree City currently has a non-profit policy and supports both Fayette Seniors Services and Promise Place.

Commissioner Rousseau agreed with the need for more dialogue between community partners and the county before a decision be made.

“I want us to be very mindful that we don’t take the easy way out by saying we just don’t do it. This is a very complicated matter. I know the ramifications and the ideology sometimes can get very muddled,” said Rousseau. “As we talk about being our brother’s keeper, these are very valuable services that fill the gaps that we don’t as a government provide.”

He agreed with the call to table the vote and work on a roundtable discussion with non-profits that are essential service providers, services that the county simply cannot provide.

“There are non-profits that are essential providers,” he said. “They’ve been standing in the gap for some time for this community.”

The commissioners agreed it would be best to wait on making a decision.

Because of a thinner schedule of meetings as the holidays approach, Rapson noted that the likely earliest something could be brought back before the commissioners would be at the January 25 meeting or it could perhaps be wrapped into a retreat in February or March.

By 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.