Laurel Boys and Girls Club task force approves recommendations

The city's task force assigned to examine the operations of the Laurel Boys and Girls Club unanimously approved this week a number of recommendations to be presented to the Laurel City Council.

Chief among the recommendations approved by the 11-member committee, which was formed after the City Council passed an ordinance in February, was that the city set up a standing commission akin to the city's Emergency Services Commission for recreational nonprofits.

The new commission, if formed, would allocate funding toward recreational programming for eligible nonprofits that apply. Each year, the City Council would designate a set amount of money to be divided out among the nonprofits by the commission, with the commission holding the power over where the money goes.

The task force recommended the city allocate $125,000 annually to the commission.

Another set of key recommendations centered on the future of the 114-year-old Phelps Center, which houses the club. The building, which was the original Laurel High School and the first high school in Prince George's County, is listed in the National Register of Historic Places and was acquired for $1 from the county in 2002 after the county determined it was surplus property.

The task force recommended the city pay for a comprehensive engineering study of the building in an effort to give the club a tactical approach on rehabilitating the building, which club officials say is in disrepair.

The task force also recommended the city allocate $250,000 into a rolling capital development fund, which would be accessible to all nonprofits who qualify — not just the club.

The fund would be used as a loan program allowing nonprofits with capital investments to receive money up front for capital projects. Following the completion of each capital project, the city would be reimbursed for its upfront costs by an outside grantor, meaning the city would not lose any money.

Club President Levet Brown said the recommendations are a starting point, but was disappointed with the funding recommendations.

"It wasn't what we asked for," Brown said.

Brown said the recommendations concerning the capital funds were adequate, but the club had hoped that more direct funding would be allocated for its programs.

"I was looking for money on the program side," Brown said. "These programs need to be made available, and the recommendations being put forth still put the club in a position where the programs will not be available to every child."

The approval of the recommendations signals the end for the committee, which began its fact-finding mission in April.

The task force met nine times for approximately 18 hours over a six-month span, and reviewed the club's financial records, programming, fundraising efforts, grants and government support.

The goal of the task force was to make short- and long-term recommendations concerning "programs, funding and issues facing the club."

At the conclusion of the meeting, task force Chairman Rick Wilson reiterated the nonbinding nature of the recommendations.

"We don't have a checkbook, it's the responsibility of the mayor and City Council to make that decision," Wilson said.

The task force was originally scheduled to conclude its work in July, but decided to add three additional meetings after it "needed more time to deliberate," according to Wilson.

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