Several grants were approved at last Monday’s Town of Franklin Board of Aldermen continuation meeting. Alderman Billy Mashburn was absent from the meeting due to family obligations.
But the aldermen were cautious in the process, favoring nonprofit applicants to others, following months of talks in establishing a new grant funding process — a policy that would establish a grant ranking system for community nonprofits.
In fact, Karen Stiwinter, on behalf of the Macon County Community Foundation, offered her organization’s services as an entity that distributes 100 percent of all grant funds it collects to non-profits. Stiwinter came with local architect Tom Ritter, the foundation’s president for next year.
“Let us funnel the funding for you,” Stiwinter said. “We deal with most of these non-profits.”
After months of deliberating on how it will distribute its own community funds, board members resolved to do it on their own this year.
“I think it’s just too late for this year,” said Alderman Carolyn “Sissy” Pattillo. “Maybe next year that would be something we could do.”
“This may happen on Tom’s watch,” said Mayor Joe Collins. “But it won’t happen on your watch.”
In July, the board decided in a unanimous vote that for this year, all nonprofit organizations must submit any grant requests they have for the entire year to the town by Sept. 1. For the following fiscal year, the grant application deadline for non-profits will be set for July 1. The policy would eliminate year-round grant applications by such organizations in one fell swoop.
Out of the $40,000 aldermen had allotted for community grant funds this year, only $33,500 worth of funds were granted.
Furthermore, the board established a $5,000 rainy day fund for the process. “I’d like to get as much money out there as we can to the people who need it, and I think $5,000 is a good amount to set aside,” said Alderman Farrell Jamison.
— Angel Medical Center (AMC) was granted $3,000 by aldermen, though it had requested a one-time grant of $5,000 to improve its Outpatient Medicine Department. The hospital was seeking to use the funds to help expand its physical capacity and service capability to meet the needs of the community. Pattillo motioned the vote, with Joyce Handley seconding it. All but Alderman Bob Scott voted in favor of the grant.
“I do not see this as something that meets the public need as a whole,” said Scott. “Their board meetings are closed and if they are granted this money, they need to hold their meetings open to the public.”
— The Arts Council was unanimously granted its requested $2,500 to help fund artist fees, promotion and production, and operating costs for “high arts programs in Franklin in the coming year.” Director Bobbi Contino said in her request that the council produces at least 12 main stage events annually, as well as ARTSaturday workshops every month. Verlin Curtis motioned the vote, with Pattillo seconding.
— Macon County CareNet was unanimously granted the $5,000 it had requested to help fund its operations. Of that amount, $4,500 would help purchase food and kitchen supplies for CareNet clients, while $500 would assist in paying delinquent water bills for clients. In 2010, the organization distributed 161,298 lbs. of food to 10,373 families receiving its aid, costing a total of $48,764. Approximately 856 families were assisted financially with funds totaling $120,753, according to the request. Jamison motioned for the grant, with Handley seconding it.
— Macon County Habitat for Humanity requested $7,000 to help pay for 11 repair or rehabilitation projects pending in the organization’s operations — three of which are residents living within the Town of Franklin. The materials needed for such projects would be paid for with the sought-after funds, according to the request application. However, aldermen voted to grant the organization only $3,000. Pattillo motioned with Curtis seconding.
— The largest request was made by the Macon County Historical Society, in the amount of $20,000, but aldermen unanimously granted only $5,000 to the organization, as it met the community funding cap. The funds would largely pay for renovations of the building. Historical Society President Bob Poindexter estimated that 3,000 to 5,000 people visited the museum last year. The funds would help pay for upstairs renovations and establish adequate financial footing for the following year. Scott motioned the grant, with Curtis seconding.
— The Macon County Public Library was granted $5,000 of the $12,000 it had requested to help fund its Reading Rover bookmobile. Last year the town granted the program $10,000. Since 1999, the Reading Rover Bookmobile has developed pre-literacy skills by bringing monthly storytime programs and age-appropriate materials to toddlers and preschoolers at child care locations. The Reading Rover Bookmobile served around 2,245 young children and their parents in at least five child care centers or family child care homes in Franklin last year. Curtis motioned the grant, with Jamison seconding.
— The Scottish Tartans was granted $5,000 of the $5,125 it requested of the board to help pay off its t-shirt machine. The grant would reportedly help the museum in otherwise tough budgetary times, and that the approximately $5,000 left on the machine would be paid by the museum itself.
“I think this is something that should be sent to the Tourism Development Authority because it is almost totally, 100 percent tourism-related,” said Scott.
However it was Mayor Collins’ input that seemed to gain the most support.
“I just really think we need to get behind the Scottish museum,” said Collins. “They really need the help.” Handley motioned the grant, with Curtis seconding. Scott opposed the vote.
— REACH of Macon County, a non-profit service provider for victims of domestic violence and children of domestic violence, was granted all of its requested $5,000 from the board, in order to match state funds that assist in the organization’s yearly operations such as shelter, court advocacy and counseling expenses. Last year, REACH provided services for more than 800 people.
— Mountain Mediation Services requested $1,000 to help provide court mediations in Macon County. According to its Executive Director Lorraine Johnson, the organization serves the seven westernmost counties of WNC and approximately 1,000 clients. The organization was denied its request because it was not exclusive to the Town of Franklin.
— The Smoky Mountain Marine Corps League requested $750 from the board to help fund its annual regional dance. Retired Marine Chief Warrant Officer Don Lanson said that Nov. 10 is the 236th anniversary of the U.S. Marine Corps, and that the dance commemorates current service members and those of the past. Held in Cherokee, the event has historically had no trouble receiving funding from leagues in the surrounding area, however, due to the economy it “no longer can do this.” They were denied their request because they were not an official non-profit.