Glenwood council seeks safety assurances in grants | AspenTimes.com

Glenwood council seeks safety assurances in grants

Matthew Bennett
Glenwood Springs Post Independent

Jeri Durnan, manager of LIFT-UP’s food pantry in Glenwood Springs, adds a few donated canned goods to the shelves Tuesday. With the help of grants and donations the all-volunteer pantry helps homeless and those in need.

Glenwood Springs City Council will withhold grant money from three charitable organizations until representatives from those groups can show they aren't aiding and abetting the local homeless population in being able to camp and have illegal campfires in the hills around town.

Before releasing the remainder of the public funds allocated to Catholic Charities, Lift-Up and Salvation Army, the groups must appear before council offering some assurance that the dollars received will in fact go toward supplying food and other assistance for those in need, and not items that may, in effect, create safety issues.

A meeting to discuss topics related to the area's homeless population was originally scheduled for late May of this year, as the season's fire danger was becoming imminent, at the request of Garfield County commissioners and others concerned about the dangers of illegal camping in the area.

However, city officials canceled it, and no conversation between City Council and the various stakeholders involved ever took place, at least in a public setting. Meetings with city staff did occur behind the scenes, however.

"I was under the impression when we had this discussion in July that we would actually see these agencies come before us," Councilman Steve Davis said at the Oct. 4 City Council meeting. "I didn't know there would be side meetings going on that we all weren't necessarily privy to that conversation.

"I think it's important that we talk about it."

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According to a city of Glenwood Springs 2018 financial advisory board grant applications summary, 33 applicants requested funding from the city for various community services and programs.

Catholic Charities applied for $10,000, Salvation Army $9,000 and Lift-Up $7,000 in grant funding. The city's financial advisory board recommended to council that it award those amounts to each of those organizations.

However, council at its meeting last week decided to award only $2,500 to each of those three organizations until they publicly appear before council for confirmation that public dollars were not supplying hazardous items that may start campfires.

City Councilwoman Shelley Kaup said she felt that funding for the organizations was being "held hostage" over the broader homelessness issue.

"The one thing that I came to ask today was the releasing of these grants to these organizations, and we've gotten into this broader homelessness issue, but that's a small fraction of the people that they serve," Kaup said. "There are a lot of people in our community that are at or below the poverty level that need help with the basic necessities.

"Salvation Army, who we are withholding a grant from, was very instrumental in help for the Lake Christine Fire victims in the valley, setting up shelters for those people that were evacuated, providing food for firefighters and for those families. They serve a lot of need in our community," Kaup continued.

"I just object to holding these funds hostage over a much broader issue, when I feel like they have a mission in the community that we should support," she said.

While every council member agreed that the organizations provide valuable resources to the community, they also unanimously voted on allocating the lesser amount until they hear from representatives from each organization.

"Not to beat the drum of 'our grants process sucks,' but our grants process sucks, and I think this is the by product of it," City Councilman Jonathan Godes stated at the Oct. 4 meeting.

"If we are going to give this to a grants committee, this discretionary funding, then you live by the sword and you die by the sword, and I think we should release those funds in conjunction with the recommendation of the grants committee," he said. "Otherwise, we need to reopen all of those grants and start picking and choosing which ones we like and which ones we don't."

Kaup noted that the grant amounts to the three organizations would "buy a lot of food."

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