Pitkin County fund may not tolerate nonprofits’ flawed applications next year

Applying for a piece of a community health fund that annually doles out more than $3 million worth of property tax-funded grants may become more difficult for some nonprofits next year.

Previously, the committee of Pitkin County residents that goes through grant applications to the Healthy Community Fund and makes recommendations to county commissioners would give the benefit of the doubt to community nonprofits that submitted less-than-perfect applications.

But that approach appears to be waning.

“I believe the grant committee is ready to move to a harder line when it comes to late or incomplete applications,” Nan Sundeen, Pitkin County’s health and human services director, told commissioners earlier this month. “If you support (that harder line), that would help.”

Commissioners, led by George Newman, left no doubt where they stood on the subject during the Nov. 12 meeting.

“I’m happy to fund these important nonprofits, but they have a responsibility, as well,” Newman said. “I support a harder line.”

The county frequently applies for grants from the state and federal governments, Newman said, and must complete those applications thoroughly and on time because “there’s a tremendous demand for those dollars,” he said.

“I think George is right,” Commissioner Patti Clapper said. “They need to toe the line. That is money that is needed by so many throughout the valley.”

The Healthy Community Fund is a dedicated property tax first authorized by county voters in 2002, and renewed in 2006, 2011 and again last year. The money is given in the form of grants to nonprofits that provide health and human services and other opportunities that enhance the quality of life for those who live, work and play in Pitkin County.

Last year, the fund doled out $3.08 million worth of grants. For 2020, that figure climbed north of $3.1 million, according to documents provided to commissioners.

Of that $3.1 million, commissioners already had allocated more than $1.7 million in the form of multi-year contracts with organizations that provide core public health services such as access to integrated health care, including mental health and substance abuse, detoxification services and senior services.

Sixty-nine Roaring Fork Valley nonprofits applied for the remaining $1.5 million, offering a range of services that run the gamut from free civil legal advice to youth skiing and snowboarding to suicide awareness to using horses and other social animals to help residents with autism and veterans with post-traumatic stress disorder.

Some of the new grants this year include $8,000 to the Freedom Center, a sober-living center for women in Glenwood Springs; $15,000 to Blue Star Recyclables, which provides recycling program vocational training for young adults with disabilities; and $5,000 to the Friends of the Colorado Avalanche Information Center, which will use the money to study last year’s unusual avalanche activity.

Barbara Reid, a member of the grant committee, told commissioners the group had a discussion about balancing incomplete grant applications with valuable services the nonprofits provide to the community. Suggestions for those with incomplete or late applications included downgrading multi-year contracts to annual contracts and canceling contracts altogether for those that continue to err, she said.

“Partnership is a privilege,” Clapper said. “That is something they need to take seriously.”

Commissioners are scheduled to approve the $3.18 million in Healthy Community Fund grants when they approve the county’s official budget next month.


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