Council Approves, Kills Grants

WINNSBORO (Dec. 18, 2015) – After a lengthy and arduous debate Tuesday night, County Council approved and then summarily killed their annual community enhancement grants, both on unanimous 6-0 votes (District 5 Councilman Marion Robinson was absent for health reasons).

“This has gone on for the last two or three years and we’ve talked back and forth and didn’t want to do this,” Councilwoman Mary Lynn Kinley (District 6) said before making the motion to end the grants, “but I think the time has really come that we need to go back to the drawing board for this.”

Kinley then moved to terminate the grants after this year’s round of funding and replace them in the 2016-2017 budget with “specific funding that goes toward the support of community based programs or agencies that either develop or promote the improvement of quality of life activities for youth, adults and seniors.”

At the behest of District 3 Councilman Walter Larry Stewart, the motion was amended to include “adequate controls” over the program.

An amending motion by Councilman Billy Smith (District 7) to exclude religious organizations from future County funding garnered little more than the sound of chirping crickets before Kinley spoke up in defense of churches.

“We have found that there are 93 homeless students in the high school,” she said. “A lot of the churches have gone to bat for them when nobody else has offered to do that. I think sometimes in the small towns you kind of have to depend on the churches to be there when the families are not. I think it’s our duty to scrutinize and see what’s good or bad about the program they want to do. With all of our connections with all seven of us we would be able to tell if that was a legitimate program or if it’s something that’s not good for the community.”

Smith withdrew his amendment, replacing it with the caveat that religious organizations could only receive funding if the money would not be a direct benefit to the organization itself, but instead was passed on to the community.

“If they’re giving out clothes or paying a light bill or giving out food, they’re a facilitator,” Smith said. “That’s a way we’re helping those citizens and they (the churches) are just a pass-through. But I don’t think it should benefit the religious organization itself.”

With the amendments, the motion passed without dissent.

Chairwoman Carolyn Robinson (District 2) said Council would hammer out the details in a work session before next year’s budgeting process began.

The debate over the grants began when Smith put forth the motion that organizations receiving this year’s round of grants should have to spend the money up front, then produce receipts to the County for reimbursement. Stewart seconded the motion.

“They’re asking for money that they don’t have,” District 4 Councilman Kamau Marcharia said. “Are you asking that they pay out of their coffers and then submit a receipt to the County?”

Smith confirmed that he was, and said the County had encountered “considerable difficulty” in tracking down receipts from grant recipients in the past.

“I only know of two incidents where folks did not return their receipts out of 25 or 30 people who applied,” Marcharia said. “Did you think that was really significant, or do you have information that that many groups did not submit their receipts?”

Smith said his information came from discussions with administration and staff.

Milton Pope, Interim County Administrator, said the County had encountered some difficulty in getting receipts from grant recipients in the past, before Council revamped the grants process more than a year ago.

Last year Council transformed what had been “discretionary funds” allotted to each district into the Community Enhancement Grants program. According to the criteria adopted by Council in 2014, “After the project is completed, receipts must be submitted to the Finance Department along with a Receipt Submission Form. . . . If any questionable or unauthorized purchases are made, the organization will not be eligible for future grants. . . .”

Nevertheless, Council voted 5-1 to override their existing policy and require this year’s round of recipients to pay first and seek reimbursement later. Marcharia voted against the motion, even after Kinley added the amendment that if the organization could demonstrate a difficulty in paying up front, they may receive the funding in advance.

Grant Recipients – $500

District 1

Tiger Totes Family Literacy (purchase of books to distribute to young people).

District 3

Fairfield Educational Training Complex (camping equipment, free youth program).

District 4

Little River Baptist Church food pantry (purchase food for pantry).

Mount Moriah Baptist Church (youth activities, gifts for elderly, installation of handicapped ramp).

St. Luke Baptist Church food pantry (purchase food, supplies).

St. Peter Community Church (youth program, reach out to elderly).

District 5

Ebenezer AME Church (back to school supplies).

Fairfield Arts Council (student writing contest).

Blackjack Baptist Church (back to school bash, gifts for nursing home patients).

St. Mark Baptist Church (serve food to elderly and children).

District 6

First Church of the Nazarene (advertising for Judgment House).

Midlands STEM Institute (playground equipment).

St. Paul Missionary Baptist Church (youth, adult and elderly health and wellness programs).

Zion Hill Prevention Save the Kids (back to school supplies).

Other Grants

District 5

New Hope AME Church (back to school supplies) – $250.

New Hope AME Church Angel Tree project (school supplies) – $250.

District 6

Ward 1 Community Association (back to school supplies) – $425.64.

District 2 & 7

Streetlights – $2,500.


Speak Your Mind