County obtains site for safe house

Grant sought to cover cost of running abuse shelter

March 24, 2004|By Hanah Cho | Hanah Cho,SUN STAFF

Carroll County has secured property for its first safe house for victims of domestic violence.

A local organization will lease to the county g a 3,100-square- foot house for a $1 per year for three years beginning in May, said Joan McKee, deputy director of Human Services Programs of Carroll County. The location of the safe house was not revealed for security reasons.

Yesterday, the county commissioners granted preliminary approval for Human Services Programs and Family and Children's Services of Carroll County to submit a grant application to the state Department of Human Resources.

The two agencies are asking for about $205,000 in operating funds annually, starting in the fiscal year beginning July 1 and running for three years. The money would cover round-the-clock staffing, utilities, maintenance, a security system, food, insurance and transportation expenses.

The grant application also includes a request for about $46,000 to cover one-time startup costs.

The three-bedroom safe house would serve eight people and provide on-site treatment services and therapy for victims and others affected by domestic violence, McKee said. Officials hope to open the house in July if the grant money is approved.

"We'll have a place where people could call the police ... and get counseling service," McKee said. "The main thing is it's a safe place."

Abuse victims are now taken to temporary shelters inside and outside the county, said Connie Sgarlata, director of Family and Children's Services. A safe house would provide immediate access to crisis services and counseling, she said.

"Right now, they are sent to a location without support," she said. "It's not the same as having an actual person there."

At yesterday's meeting, Commissioner Dean L. Minnich expressed concern that the grant money would not be available in future years because of persistent state budget deficits.

Colleen Baumgartner, the county's grants manager, told the commissioners that the grant is federal money funneled through the state Department of Human Resources.

"Historically, the grant has been stable," Baumgartner said.

Baumgartner said she hopes to win final approval of the grant application from the commissioners next week. State approval could come next month.

The commissioners also gave preliminary approval for a grant that would provide money to establish a permanent safe house after the three-year lease expires.

Submission of the grant application would be contingent on officials finding a county-owned site for the safe house by mid-April. A site secured previously was found to be insufficient, Baumgartner said.

In other business, more county agencies came before the commissioners seeking extra money for the fiscal 2005 budget year.

The recommended operating budget for the fiscal year that begins July 1 is $259.5 million, a 6 percent increase from this year's budget.

Most of the $14.8 million increase would go to continued funding for round-the-clock ambulance services, the county school system and the Sheriff's Office. Only $700,000 remains to be distributed among several dozen county departments and services.

The commissioners heard yesterday that past state cuts and possible cuts for the coming fiscal year would affect services.

Patricia Supik, director of Alliance/Volunteer Carroll Project, told the commissioners that her agency has lost $65,000 in state funding over the past three years. Supik said the agency needs $25,500 to cover the salary of an additional staff member.

The Carroll County Health Department would need an additional $50,000 to cover possible salary increases for employees who run programs and services for county residents, said Larry Leitch, director of the Health Department.

The governor has recommended that state employees receive "step increases" - automatic pay raises built into salary scales - but has provided no money for that, Leitch said. Since the Health Department is a state function, a number of employees would be affected by the governor's plan, if approved by the General Assembly.

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