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Community Service Center left in limbo
Director: Hall-Gainesville agency will not survive without county funding
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The Hall County Board of Commissioners continues to wrestle with the idea of cutting funding to the Community Service Center, a decision which would have repercussions for Gainesville as well as the county.

The center, which serves as umbrella agency for Meals on Wheels, Hall Area Transit and the county's senior center, has been jointly funded by the city and county for 30 years, Director Phillippa Lewis Moss said.

Hall County Commissioner Billy Powell has recently suggested the idea of cutting back the county's funding, effectively ending the relationship.

"If the county withdraws its support, I believe at this time ... that we would lose all programs regardless of the city's support because the nature of the grant programs require that we provide service countywide," Moss said.

"Some of the individuals who have introduced this proposal, I don't believe they understand or are aware of the intricacies of the relationship or the importance of following protocol."

Gainesville Mayor Ruth Bruner said there is no way the city could carry the entire financial burden of the center.

"It puts us in a bad position, and we'll just have to hope that they don't follow through with that," she said. "There would be a lot of suffering for people who are very much in need if the county does cut the Community Service Center."

But Powell said they have few other options.

"I would hope that the city would understand the financial pressure that we're under," he said. "We have to make cuts. They didn't have to, so they're not feeling the same pain that the county is."

According to Moss, the center receives $624,000 from the county and $435,829 from the city. That is used to leverage an additional $2.2 million in federal and state grants.

Thursday, Moss told commissioners a decision to cut the center's funding could leave the local governments on the line to pay some $2.6 million.

If the county defunded the center, Moss said, the commission would have to repay about $1.9 million in grants to state and federal agencies.

The county would then have to pay unemployment and severance pay for 57 people, totaling $559,000.

About 60 percent of those costs would fall on the county and 40 percent on the city, Moss said.

The county would also have to spend another $155,000 working out a 90-day grace period with the Gainesville government to end their cost-sharing agreement.

After hearing these numbers, Chairman Tom Oliver and Commissioner Ashley Bell both said they were no longer considering the cuts.

However, the remaining commissioners said they want to leave it on the table while they gather more information.

"It's so our people can have a chance to go through and fully analyze the contracts and commitments that have been made and know the entire financial picture," Powell said.

But Moss said commissioners seem to be going about things the wrong way.

"I just could not understand how such bright individuals could be dismissive of such important facts and figures," she said.

"To even suggest the possibility of terminating these programs without engaging city officials in a conversation to make sure that the handling of this matter is done properly and with care and full knowledge of all the implications, is baffling. It's baffling to me that any business partners would do that to one another."

 

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