The Frederick Board of Aldermen looked at new standards for the city’s Community Action Agency and approved more than $475,000 in state and federal grants at a meeting Wednesday.
Mike Spurrier, director of the Frederick Community Action Agency, proposed modifying the structure and bylaws of the agency — one of just three such public agencies in the state — to clearly define oversight of his position. Specifically, Spurrier recommended drafting an ordinance that states that oversight and evaluation of the director of the city’s Community Action Agency be handled jointly by the mayor and the agency’s 15-member board of directors, rather than one or the other.
“In my going on 31 years [with the Frederick Community Action Agency], it has been one or the other at times,” Spurrier said. “There have been administrations where the board of directors have had a much stronger role in evaluating the director [than the mayor], and it really should be a combination of both.”
Spurrier went on to point out that the groundwork to include this sort of clarification has existed since the reauthorization of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Administration’s Community Services Block Grant Program in 1998. The CSBG, which supports the alleviation of poverty by funding measures such as community action agencies, already addressed oversight for public agencies like Frederick’s, but previous administrations did not act when Spurrier mentioned the changes, Spurrier said.
By laying down a firm oversight structure and modifying term limits for members of the board, which is made up of elected officials, low-income residents and other members of the community, Spurrier hopes to maintain the original purpose and vision of the action agencies as groups dedicated to searching out innovative, grassroots solutions to poverty in specific communities.
“The fear is that some larger, public community action agencies will just treat that revenue stream [from] the Community Services Block Grant like just another revenue stream, you know, and not look at doing things that are innovative or thinking outside the box,” Spurrier said.
The board seemed generally in favor of Spurrier’s proposals, with much of the ensuing discussion surrounding appropriate term limits for members of the action agency’s board of directors. Any proposed changes to the action agency’s bylaws will be presented at a future public hearing for further discussion and a vote.
The FCAA was also included in $475,138 worth of housing and public safety grants that were approved by the Board of Aldermen on Wednesday.
The agency’s affordable housing programs received the most funding in the form of five grants totaling $391,915. About 40 percent of that money came from the U.S. Department of Energy through the Maryland Department of Housing and Community Development and will help low-income households reduce their energy consumption by weatherizing their homes, according to the list of reports submitted to the board.
The Frederick Police Department was also awarded several notable grants from the Governor’s Office on Crime Control and Prevention, including $3,540 toward new body armor that will be matched by the department for a total of $7,080, roughly $32,500 for the department’s Police Activities League, and an additional $20,000 and $27,170 to fund gun violence reduction and internet crimes against children initiatives, respectively.
“Our crime fighting capabilities are enhanced by using the overtime and equipment purchases made possible by these grants and certainly PAL has been an invaluable resource in terms of our community outreach,” city Police Chief Ed Hargis said when reached for comment regarding the annual grants his department seeks. “... We look forward to these opportunities every year.”