Jennifer Shrader Daily News
October 11, 2013
West Point is no longer under threat of fine from the state for the use of its youth services building.
The city got official word from the Department of Community Affairs this month.
“This decision is based upon information recently submitted by the city documenting the youth service center’s status as meeting the (community development block grant) continued use requirements,” said Brian Williamson, assistant commissioner in an Oct. 1 letter to West Point.
“We wish the city continued success with the CDBG project,” the letter said.
The youth service building on O.G. Skinner Drive was built in 2003 with funding from a $500,000 Community Development Block Grant. As a condition of the grant, the building has to be used for youth services. That wasn’t a problem when the Boys & Girls Club of West Georgia moved in after construction, but became an issue when the club left the city in 2009.
Critics of the city complained the building wasn’t being used for its intended purpose, even though the city started its own youth services program and West Point City Council has made funding for youth programs a priority in recent years.
Since the Boys & Girls Club left, West Point has worked to provide programs for youth in the building and the DCA has been kept abreast of the entire process. Shortly after the club moved out, the city and local volunteers launched a program called West Point WINS, which aimed to act as a clearinghouse for local youth programs and start a youth program in the building. A representative from DCA was present at each WINS meeting.
In late 2009, however, the economic slump was at its peak and WINS could not find financial backing it needed.
In 2010, the city itself hired a community development director, and in 2011, youth programs were able to start up again in the youth services building.
The city now operates the building in conjunction with Troup County Parks and Recreation and offers youth programs through the department and other private organizations.
After it received the complaint, the DCA inspected the building. It issued then lifted a $350,000 fine if West Point didn’t meet certain conditions in ongoing talks, including increasing the number of children in its programs and giving regular progress reports.
The Oct. 1 letter permanently lifts the fine and clears the city of further action.
“While this was almost a two-year process the intent of the city and the evidence provided to DCA proved that the city always had the desire to offer services to the youth of the community in the facility,” City Manager Ed Moon said. “Thanks to everyone who worked to clear the city of the unsubstantiated allegations and who provide services to the youth of West Point on a daily basis.”