County support sought on grant for Kids Klub

Commission gives ‘basic nod yes;’ nonprofit yet to set return date

Youth program outgrows current facilities at GEMS

GRANGEVILLE — Kelly Dahlquist with Clearwater Economic Development Association (CEDA) and Kids Klub, Inc., Executive Director Cindy Godfrey on May 3 asked for the Idaho County Commission’s support to pursue a $300,000 community development block grant, under which the program would tap its reserves and match federal funds dollar-for-dollar to build a building of its own adjacent to its present location in Grangeville Elementary Middle School classrooms.

Kids Klub is a youth development program that has grown to include afterschool and preschool as well as events such as college visits for middle school students, summer camps and the yearly Missoula Children’s Theater production at Grangeville.

The afterschool program is currently housed in unused rooms in the Grangeville Elementary Middle School wing. Because lower-level classes are much larger than present classes, eventually the GEMS rooms will have to be used for student classrooms again. The organization has long been looking at plans to eventually build its own facility.

To meet the grant’s matching requirements, the group will use funds it has saved throughout the years, including an $180,000 gift from the Webb family estate, and will also fund-raise.

The community development block grant funds are federal tax dollars directed to benefit communities of low-to-moderate incomes. The dollars are routed through the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development to the Idaho Department of Commerce. The state’s Economic Advisory Council – an eight-member board appointed by the governor – chooses which projects to fund from among those sponsored by cities and counties across the state each year. Only areas where more than half of the households are low-to-moderate income qualify. The last time CEDA surveyed the Grangeville-area portion of Idaho County, which was during the Syringa Hospital grant process, 56 percent of Grangeville households ranked in the low-to-moderate bracket.

The Kids Klub afterschool program currently has a waiting list of 16 students who can’t participate because the program has outgrown the available facilities. Kids Klub serves more than 400 children annually, with 30 percent or more from low income homes and 30 percent who are raised by single parents or grandparents.

— An unfortunate bit of timing beset what otherwise might have been a very dull morning at the Idaho County Courthouse at the commission’s May 3 regular meeting. Eagerly anticipating news that the state would approve a block grant the county had backed on Syringa Hospital’s behalf, another of the area’s strongest non-profit groups had sought and received time to seek the county commission’s support for a building project of its own.

The hospital block grant was approved by the state late last week, just days after the commission told Grangeville Kids Klub, Inc. the county could not advance the grant request immediately and that Kids Klub should bring its grant request back to the board after the hospital grant was resolved.

Shannon Fuchs, Kids Klub board member and manager of the IFG-Grangeville mill, said Kids Klub’s next steps “are to finalize our project presentation and schedule with our county commissioners to present our grant proposal requesting their support.”

“In no way did we say no to them,” Brandt explained last Friday, May 6. “We did not say yes either, and there is more we need to consider before we can say yes.”

Brandt noted the commission typically requires grant-seekers to take multiple steps, and sometimes to take significant additional steps, as when the commission required an Elk City group to provide a petition demonstrating support for the proposal within that community. As Brandt put it last week in an e-mail to the Free Press, which he disseminated widely, the commission “will never rubberstamp any grant.”

Under the rules, the commission can’t sponsor block grants that would compete for funds against any other block grant the commission sponsors. Brandt compared the circumstance to a high school dance, and pointed out that the commission couldn’t take both Syringa Hospital and the Kids Klub to the Idaho Department of Commerce’s federally funded annual prom. If the hospital grant were not approved, the commissioners told the Free Press, they would go with Syringa again this year.

Last Friday afternoon, May 6, the Free Press learned the Syringa Hospital grant has been approved. As of Monday, May 9, the county had not yet received a request from the Kids Klub for a future meeting date.

The Free Press regularly covers the Idaho County Commission. Last week, the Free Press reported late-breaking news about the pending sale of the Kamiah mill to Idaho Forest Group on the front page of the May 4 print edition and reported the Kids Klub’s commission visit online on the May 4 afternoon. The Free Press attended a portion of the May 3 meeting that focused on an aspect of the local solid waste issue and reported on the rest of the meeting through independent sources. The initial Free Press report on the Kids Klub’s commission visit was corrected on May 5.

During the meeting on May 3, commissioner Skip Brandt gave the Kids Klub’s request for support a “basic nod yes, but we need to wait and see about the hospital grant.” Commissioners Mark Frei and Jim Chmelik have since told the Free Press Brandt’s words on that point went for them as well.

The Free Press independently confirmed the nature – but not the specific wording – of what each commissioner said at the May 3 meeting: that Brandt’s deliberation had focused on the need to see the hospital grant through, that Chmelik’s deliberation focused on whether supporting the Kids Klub would be an appropriate use of federal money and that Frei’s deliberation focused on whether by supporting the Kids Klub the county would be supporting strong family values.

The May 4 Lewiston Tribune quoted Frei as saying – and the Free Press confirmed through independent sources on May 4, and the Free Press confirmed through Frei himself on May 6, that Frei in fact said: “I wish that the kids were with their parents as opposed to a program.” Last Friday, Frei told the Free Press he intended the remark to be understood alongside the other points he voiced during the May 3 meeting: that Kids Klub does a great job, that he realizes both parents have to work in some families, that the county has an interest promoting healthy functioning families, and that in the end, he’ll probably vote to support Kids Klub’s request.

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