Craig City Council tables Open Heart Advocates funding talks until next meeting
In a unanimous vote at Tuesday night’s Craig City Council meeting, council members Jarred Ogden, Ryan Hess, Andrea Camp, Chris Nichols, Tony Bohrer and Paul James tabled the discussion of funding Open Heart Advocates until the first meeting in February.
At the Jan. 14 meeting, Open Heart Advocates Executive Director Meghan Francone, and Memorial Regional Health Chief Executive Officer Andy Daniels presented to City Council the impact OHA has on Moffat County and the city of Craig, while also asking for funding.
OHA also presented to the Moffat County Board of County Commissioners at the Jan. 21 meeting, seeking funding.
Currently, OHA — under the direction of MRH — is operating at a loss of roughly $24,000 to $26,000 a month. The nonprofit organization is seeking funding to keep its doors open past March 1, 2020, but without funding MRH would have to cut ties with the organization amidst its own financial issues.
As of now, OHA has applied for the 2021 and 2022 Crime Victim Services (CVS) Grant Program Funds that has the potential to fund OHA completely during those two years. However, the funds from that grant wouldn’t start until Jan. 1, 2021. So, OHA is seeking funds from organizations with Moffat County to keep its doors open through 2020, allowing the nonprofit organization to continue to provide help to more than 21 percent of the population within Moffat County.
“We’ve gone through our budget and taken a look at the services we’ve provided, and we’ve cut back on a few things to help us right now,” Francone said. “We made sure that if we were duplicating services, we cut that out as well. We’re doing everything we can to be cost efficient, but we need to secure funding through the rest of the year.”
Francone added that the organization feels it’s on track to receive the 2021 and 2022 CVS grants, based on the talks the organization has had with the grant program.
Knowing that the community needs the nonprofit organization to stay open and provide services to crime victims pushed the city councils to search for ways to provide funding, but with the 2020 city budget already set, and the 30-day mandate to find funding or close was a tough pill to swallow Tuesday night before any action could be taken one way or another.
“I’ve worked with these guys very closely due to my role on the chaplain side,” Councilman Bohrer said. “This is an important organization that makes an impact in this community, but knowing that we already set the city budget for the year… I hate being put in a place, personally as a councilman, where it’s basically ‘you have to do this or we’re shutting the doors.’
“Now, I know you (Francone) didn’t say that, I’m just saying that’s how this feels,” Bohrer added. “I’m so torn on this; I am all for helping you guys out, but at the same time I just don’t know where the funding comes from.”
“If we had some time, we could find a stop-gap action we could take,” Councilman Hess said. “We just can’t solve this problem right now.”
Francone then added that if the agency were to go away in Moffat County, more would fall on the Craig Police Department and Moffat County Sheriff’s Office to fill the void, which would create more of a workload for officers or deputies, adding to an already busy slate.
“A lot of the victims that we see and help, they don’t seek help from law enforcement,” Francone said. “That’s where we come in. They still need medical help, still need those examinations done, still need that support. So if we go away, while it will put more on law enforcement, many won’t get the help that they need.”
Councilman Nichols then asked Francone about OHA’s budget and if that was open to viewing by the council.
“I realize it’s a valuable resource for this community, but I just feel a little uneasy saying here’s a quarter of a million dollars,” Councilman Nichols said. “Now, we don’t have the money to fund that, first of all, but it just seems like a lot of money… I would just feel better if I saw some of your budget and had more of an understanding of your costs.
“I’d also like to have staff tell us where we’re going to pull this money from, and give us a recommendation as well, because I’d hate to see the program disappear, but we also need to make an educated decision on this.”
“A majority of us, if not all of us, would feel a lot better making a decision if we had more factual evidence in front of us,” Mayor Ogden said. “I would encourage you to get on our next agenda, have that budget to us early so we can look at it closely, and then make a decision.”
Councilman James asked Francone if the county had given any information back to OHA regarding funding. The next BOCC meeting is Tuesday, Feb. 4 at 8:30 a.m.
“I’d hate to see this go away,” Councilman James said. “Twenty-one percent of people being affected… that’s staggering, but that’s a lot of money to fall on the city completely.”
Following the unanimous vote to table the discussion for now, the city will reach out to the county to try and come up with an action plan to tackle the funding issue for OHA.
“You no doubt have our support,” Mayor Odgen said. “We’re just looking to gather more information.”
The next city council meeting is scheduled for Tuesday, Feb. 11 at 6 p.m.
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Moffat County continues to see a downward trend in COVID-19 cases as the community has seen 31 new cases dating back to Friday, Jan. 8, according to Public Health.