Project Challenge funds discussed by Ashe Crime Prevention Council

Wil Petty Staff Writer

September 2, 2013

In its first meeting of the new fiscal year, the Ashe County Juvenile Crime Prevention Council discussed how to allocate $2,119 that had been previously marked for the Ashe branch of Project Challenge.

“The way the legislature was cutting things, I think that was a smart move for us to (put the money aside) as a council,” Grier Hurley, chairwoman of the ACJCPC said. “But now we’re in a quandary of this $2,119.”

The money had been allocated in case the state of North Carolina decided to cut funding to the juvenile community service and restitution program, which has an 11 percent recidivism rate and has expanded to serve 33 of the state’s 100 counties. Instead, the state still provided the 23rd Judicial District’s program with $13,241, to help with the organization’s administrative and overhead costs.

But Project Challenge for this district remains underfunded, after the Wilkes County JCPC withheld $20,000 from the organization’s requested amount. Wilkes is supposed to decide in October what they will do with the money.

Worker hours from the district’s Project Challenge have been cut because of that decision.

“Project Challenge does a multi-county agreement so what happens in one county affects everybody,” Bill Davis, chief court councilor of the 23rd Judicial District said. “That’s one of the advantages and disadvantages of doing multi-county agreements.”

Alongside Ashe and Wilkes, Alleghany and Yadkin counties are also part of the 23rd district. Hurley said all four counties will have a meeting to discuss what to do with the appropriation money.

The Ashe board is expected to take a vote in September on whether or not to give the money to Project Challenge or to provide it to another organization.

“It sounds like they need (the appropriation money),” Ed Hurst, child protective services intake and investigations supervisor said in the meeting.

In the 2012-13 fiscal year Project Challenge planned to serve up to 25 juveniles in Ashe, but served 45. Over 30 of those were referrals from the Department of Juvenile Justice.

Kathy Weaver, Project Challenge Program Coordinator for Ashe and Allegheny counties said that the organization will only be serving what is in their program agreement – which is 25.

While state cuts did not directly affect Project Challenge, a closure of two juvenile detention facilities could affect where Ashe County sends its delinquents. The detention centers that are closing are in Buncombe and Richmond counties.

Davis said the state legislature specifically targeted the two locations as part of the budget cuts.

Ashe sends its delinquents to the Alexander Juvenile Detention Center in Taylorsville, but after the state legislature closed the Buncombe Regional Juvenile Detention Center in Asheville, there are concerns of overpopulation. Those from Buncombe will most likely go to Alexander, which can house up to 24 delinquents.

“Right now I don’t see any changes for our kids,” Davis said. “They will still go to Alexander.”

In turn, Yadkin County delinquents will now go to the Forsyth County Youth Services Center in Winston-Salem.

“That helps Alexander a little bit, plus it helps our court councilors,” Davis said.

Since a two-thirds majority of the council was not at the meeting, votes on April and May minutes, as well as a change in by-laws removing proxy voting did not take place. Eleven members have to be present in order to vote.

The next meeting by the board will take place at noon on Sept. 24, in the Agricultural Services Building.

In other action taken by the council:

• Reviewed the council by-laws, as well as its funding policy and practice.

• Members filled out their annual conflict of interest forms.

• Reports were given by Project Challenge and juvenile mediation for year end results in the 2012-13 fiscal year.