County officials promised yesterday to help the local chapter of Mothers Against Drunk Driving search for rent-free office space, computers and furniture in the wake of severe funding cuts by the national organization.
In a meeting with the County Commissioners yesterday, Linda Dennis, local chapter president, said without assistance from local officials, the Carroll office in Westminster could be forced to close by year's end.
She told the commissioners that the group's budget has been slashed from $18,000 to $4,000 this fiscal year, which began July 1. Dennis said the chapter might receive an additional $4,000, but that is not guaranteed.
The Carroll chapter, which began its local fight against drunken driving in 1991, has become an all-volunteer organization since it recently had to reduce costs by dismissing a part-time secretary.
The organization is looking to trim costs further with free office space. Dennis said renting its office at 229 E. Main St. costs the chapter $6,000 a year.
National and state MADD officials have sympathized with the Carroll chapter's situation, but have said many of its 350 chapters operate from nonleased headquarters, depend heavily on volunteers rather than paid staff, and have become more aggressive in soliciting individual and corporate donations.
Funds collected in national solicitations are allocated to state chapters with percentages adjusted according to population figures, said Dean Wilkerson, MADD's national executive director. The state chapter then reallocates money to local chapters.
Carroll State's Attorney Jerry F. Barnes, who urged Dennis to ask the county for help, reminded the commissioners at the 40-minute meeting that MADD's request is not without precedent.
"The Rape Crisis Center is a similar victim-assistance program -- but with a different crime -- and you already provide [rent-free] space in the county's multipurpose building" at 224 N. Center St., Barnes said.
After Dennis mentioned that other state MADD chapters receive similar government assistance, Commissioner Richard T. Yates requested more information so the staff could research how other jurisdictions help MADD.
When asked by Commissioner W. Benjamin Brown how much space the chapter would need for an office, Dennis and C. J. Stiles, vice president of the local chapter, said a small room with a desk and telephone would not suffice.
"We have 600 square feet now and we're jammed," Dennis said.
She estimated the group needs about 1,000 square feet -- enough space to have a conference room for victim impact meetings, which judges often order first-time drinking and driving offenders to attend. The chapter also needs a conference table to replace its oft-repaired one, chairs, computers, a typewriter and a calculator, she said.
The space also must be handicapped-accessible, Dennis said.
Steven D. Powell, director of the county Department of Management and Budget, said county officials could likely find a typewriter and a couple of obsolete but working computers, and perhaps repair MADD's conference table.
Powell said his department has access to state surplus in Jessup for office furniture, but didn't want to raise false hope. Surplus furniture will be sturdy, but "pretty, it ain't," he said.
The County Commissioners asked for time to have county staff "look around to see what's available."
Powell said a month should be sufficient to determine what can be done to address MADD's requests.
Pub Date: 7/23/98