A potential fine to the city of West Point has temporarily been lifted after the state reviewed the city’s use of the youth services building on O.G. Skinner Drive.
The city could have faced a penalty of $350,000 and still faces monitoring from the state Department of Community Affairs.
“We should have no problem meeting the remaining requirements with the funding from the grant program and the after school programs,” City Manager Ed Moon said.
The DCA has asked the city to increase the number of youths being served at the site and provide a mid-year progress report on July 31. An annual progress report is due by Jan. 31, 2013 with detailed plans for the building’s use in the calendar year. The DCA also will come back to visit the site sometime during the year.
Once all that is done, the fine will permanently be lifted.
The DCA had paid a visit to the youth building last fall and decided it wasn’t being used for youth services. That was the building’s intended purpose when it was constructed in 2003 with a $500,000 Community Development Block Grant. The $350,000 fine amounts to 70 percent of the grant.
When West Point got the grant, it was for the construction of a new Boys & Girls Club building, which was being housed in a dilapidated space off 10th Street. The club moved to the new site in March 2006. A condition of the grant stated, however, that the building be used for youth services. The city and the Boys & Girls Club of West Georgia, based in LaGrange, mutually agreed in fall 2009 that the club should vacate the building because the agency was failing to provide the service.
The city owns the building and was renting it to the club through a lease agreement.
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, city leaders said. 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 last year 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. Community Development Director Monica Barber said the building recently was vacated so more renovations could be completed, but the children are back in the building now.