FORT WASHINGTON – As the local development council continues to work on their spending recommendations and grants, disagreements are becoming more common.
The agenda for the Aug. 30 meeting was a packed one, with the body making recommendations on the county executive’s proposed fiscal year (FY) 2018 multi-year spending plan for MGM National Harbor revenues and voting on grant recipients for FY17 funds. And with such important decisions, disagreements arose among members of the board as well as the public.
The committee’s vote on the grant recipients was 7-1, with LDC Member Patricia Britton voting in opposition because she had concerns about the process. The program priorities and budget subcommittee reviewed the 24 grant applicants that were deemed complete by the county’s grants office and selected 10 for awarded grants. Britton was concerned the full LDC did not see the full applications of the 24 applicants, but only the 10 in the recommended list.
“I still have concerns in terms of how we go forward with awarding the grants,” she said. “I never saw where we would not have input on all of the grants that were submitted… the 24 that went forward for review, I thought that as a council, we would all be privy to the 24 grants and get our input as to which ones should be recommended for funding. As a committee, I thought you would give us your recommendations. However, as a board I thought that we would all get to look at the 24 grants and give our input.”
LDC Chair Jeffrey Chandler, who also chairs the program priorities and budget subcommittee, said the grant awardees and those not selected for funding this time around would be notified at the same time, via letter. As such, the LDC did not discuss or announce the contents of the recommendation list it voted on, which concerned community members as well as Britton.
Chandler said the intention had always been to handle the grant awarding in this way, but did provide more detail about the criteria used by the subcommittee in making the recommendations.
“They were ranked based on the following criteria: statement of problem, program/project design and implementation, the program/project evaluation, the organizational capability, the program/project future sustainability, and most importantly, the program/project services impact within the designated impact zone,” Chandler said.
Still, he said there was a lot he would like to change about the way the FY17 grant process went, including adding grant writing workshops for interested organizations and potentially having applicants make public presentations of their proposals for the full LDC as well as the public.
LDC grants also featured into the body’s discussion of the multi-year spending plan, with member Manervia Riddick making the recommendation that the LDC be consulted on the size of the grants they can award. Chandler said that would be put in the record.
“In the FY17 grant program, we put that ($25,000) limit because we had such a limited amount of funds, but I think FY18 already has $500,000, so I don’t think we have to put that cap on grants,” he said. “Certainly we’re going to make that part of our recommendation, to not limit the grants based on the number but based on the total funding that is existing.”
The issue of supplanting other county revenues with local development grants money from MGM has been brought up at nearly every LDC meeting to date, and Wednesday’s was no exception, as Chandler announced that one of the LDC’s main recommendations was not to use these revenues to supplant other county funds. But this time, member Michael Errico pushed back against that idea.
“If something’s needed in the impact area, if it’s police services, if it’s fire services, if it’s a transportation improvement, that, to me, is a legitimate funding source out of these funds if it is a true increase,” Errico said. “If we put 22 officers in the budget, and because of the new impacts, the decision is made that we can put in six more officers, to me, that’s legitimate. I just want to make it clear that there are things that are in the county budget that have been increases for this service area.”
Del. Jay Walker, who serves as an LDC member, also raised concerns brought to his attention by residents about the amount of money being appropriated to the county Economic Development Corporation (EDC), and why they as a nonprofit group don’t have to go through the grant application process that other nonprofits do.
“The Prince George’s County Council has been funding the EDC for a while. If we’re going to use this money to pay their salary, then that’s countywide. But this is LDC, this is local,” he said. “Personally, I wouldn’t have gone for that (EDC appropriation). Because EDC, yes, they do a good job, but their job is not southern Prince George’s County-specific.”
Nathaniel Tutt, a member of the county executive’s staff working with the LDC, said the EDC is a quasi-governmental entity, which explains how it is handled in the county budget. He said the EDC can be invited to a meeting to explain their programs and how they plan to use these specific funds to help the communities around MGM.