The Flagler County Public Library, the Flagler County Juvenile Justice Council’s community garden, the Carver Center (or Carver Gym) in Bunnell, the Sheriff’s Office and the school district’s adult education program did well in a parceling off of $55,000 in crime-prevention grants today. A county government neighborhood crime-prevention program and the Focus on Flagler Youth Coalition, a community non-profit with a checkered history, were denied awards outright.
The grants were recommended by the Flagler County Public Safety Coordinating Council at its meeting this morning. The council gathers representatives from local government, law enforcement, the court system and related non-profits once a month, under the chairmanship of Barbara Revels. The grants must be ratified by the county commission, which is also chaired by Revels this year.
The council has been awarding a total of $55,000 in grants annually, out of a pot of money that felons and misdemeanor offenders feed with $50 and $20 fines. The pot amounts to $110,000 at the moment (before the awarding of this year’s grants). It used to take in $50,000 to $60,000 a year. But more recently, as crime has fallen, the amounts have been closer to $20,000. “If we’re reducing our funding, then we’re doing our job,” Jack Pittman, a member of the council, said.
The annual award total may be lowered in light of the diminishing funds, Revels said.
The largest recommended award–$15,000—went to the Carver Center in Bunnell, on whose foundation board Revels serves. Revels led the revival of Carver Gym as a community and youth center last year on the strength of public and private dollars. She secured the council’s $15,000 grant last year. “Naturally I’d want to see it fully funded,” Revels said when the council was discussing Carver’s request today.
She got her wish—and an unspoken rebuke from Denise Calderwood, a member of the Focus on Flagler Youth Coalition, which had applied for $5,000 to underwrite its project. The coalition wants to revitalize the 6 acres around the old Flagler Memorial Hospital property “by occupying the property and by asking community members for their help in the design, construction, and implementation of projects that will provide lasting community benefits, such as the development of a farmer’s market,” and opening a “juvenile crime prevention office,” according to the organization’s application. “The abandoned building will become a model for future development in the area and it will become an opportunity center, away from the school, where youth and their families can complete their community service, where they can attend enrichment classes, find resource information about social services and where they can go when they are suspended from school.”
In other words, the center in many ways would replicate what the Carver Center and its older mirror—the Youth Center on the campus of Flagler Palm Coast High School–are trying to do, though that wasn’t the reason the council turned down the Focus on Flagler grant request: a lack of a budget was. And while the group’s history wasn’t discussed at today’s meeting, it has been a troubled one: it lost its non-profit designation, had poor management, and saw prominent board members, among them School Board member Colleen Conklin and Patrick Johnson, administrator of the Flagler County Department of Health.
Calderwood, when she addressed the council, said that two approved projects had been guaranteed their money ahead of the meeting. Revels shook her head when Calderwood made the allegation. Calderwood later said the Carver Center and the Juvenile Justice Council’s Community Garden, which was also granted money, were “guaranteed” wins.
“None of these funds,” Revels countered for the record, “had pre-ordained approval or were set aside,” Revels said.
The coalition wasn’t the only rejected organization: Flagler County government’s building department had applied for a $50,000 grant and was denied it all. The department wanted to use the money as part of a program to revitalize foreclosed and abandoned properties. Flagler County Sheriff Don Fleming objected: none of the properties, he said through Lynn Catoggio, who represented him on the council, are in crime-ridden areas. The council went along.
The sheriff’s own request fared better. He requested $25,000 and was granted $13,712 to supplement overtime pay and provide educational materials for a variety of ongoing programs, including gang awareness and crime prevention programs for parents and youth, enrolling 300 youths in its STOPPED program (which lets parents register their teen drivers with the sheriff’s office for quicker notification if the driver gets in trouble), participating in neighborhood watch meetings, and other initiatives.
The third-highest grant award went to the Flagler County Public Library, a $13,483 award to improve lighting around the library at Palm Coast Parkway and Belle Terre Parkway, where patrons have been complaining of juvenile crime and the presence of homeless individuals.
Another winner was the Flagler County Juvenile Justice Council’s acclaimed Community Garden project—a vegetable garden growing in back of the Jack Clegg property in Bunnell, near the intersection of North Palmetto and East Howe. The council awarded $6,305 to the garden project.
The garden is run by young people required to log community service hours. The food helps feed the hungry. The garden began in 2009, an outcrop of Youth Success Week, and was organized by Cheryl Massaro, the Youth Center’s and Carver Center’s director. “Hopefully,” she wrote in her grant application, “the intrinsic reward of building something from scratch and seeing the project to the end, with food being donated to area pantries and distributed to residents in need, will place a new perspective on community service.”
A literacy program run by the school district’s Adult Education division got the last $6,500 available this year.
The county commission will likely take up the recommendations, which it usually ratifies with little debate, at a meeting later this month.
Community Garden video: