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Carroll commissioners OK housing self-sufficiency grant, renovations for Sykesville treatment facility

Some Carroll countians who are struggling can expect a boost this coming year as the county expects to receive additional funding to help families on housing assistance achieve self-sufficiency and plans renovations to a drug treatment facility in Sykesville.

The Board of Commissioners on Thursday approved the application for and subsequent acceptance of the Family Self-Sufficiency (FSS) Program grant for approximately $74,100 from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. Last year, the county received about $55,000, according to Danielle Yates, bureau chief of Housing and Community Connections.

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FSS started in the Carroll County Bureau of Housing in 1996. The voluntary program allows people who are on housing assistance to become economically self-sufficient, according to Christine Kay, director of Citizen Services. Kay presented an informational video to the commissioners to explain the program.

Typically, when someone who has a housing voucher receives an income increase, their rent goes up, the video said. Through FSS, an individual still pays rent as it increases, but their housing provider will make a deposit into the voucher holder’s FSS savings account, according to the video. Usually, that deposit is equivalent to the rent increase. FSS participants can use this money to put toward necessities such as a vehicle or education, the video said. To graduate from FSS, a person must follow the goals they set, ensure everyone in their household has been off cash welfare assistance for 12 consecutive months, and be employed, according to the video. FSS lasts for five years, but people can graduate sooner, the video said.

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There are 681 housing vouchers in Carroll County, but the majority of those people are not eligible for FSS, according to Yates. About 91.5% of voucher holders in Carroll are elderly or disabled so they would not be eligible for FSS as it is for families who are able to work, said program coordinator Carol Smith.

Commissioner Richard Weaver, R-District 2, asked Smith about the program’s success rate.

There are 34 Carroll families in the FSS program, and all but three are employed, according to Smith. So far in 2019, four participants have graduated from FSS, and of those four, three no longer need housing assistance and one is in the process of buying a house, Smith said.

“As you know, this is a very expensive area to live in, so it is difficult to get to that point where you no longer need housing assistance, particularly if you’re a single mother," Smith told the board. “For some people, success might be that they require less housing assistance.”

Some participants are working and pursuing education. This year, eight are taking college credit classes, two completed vocational certificate programs at Carroll Community College, and one is currently in a certificate program, according to Smith.

FSS participants have also attended finance classes, learned about student loans and buying a home, and met with representatives of the community college, Smith said.

Commissioner Eric Bouchat, R-District 4, praised the program for offering these opportunities.

“I joke with people and say that when I graduated high school, I knew algebra, but I didn’t know how to reconcile my own checkbook," Bouchat said.

Commissioner Ed Rothstein, R-District 5, recalled his days in the military when they offered a wellness program that touched on similar topics as FSS does.

“Really what this is, is the spearhead of a resiliency effort to take people when they are down into a situation and bring them where they want to go," Rothstein said.

Historically, the county has received the full requested amount for the grant, Yates wrote in an email.

Commissioners approved the application and acceptance of the grant 4-0. Commissioner Stephen Wantz, R-District 1, did not attend because he was in Nashville, Tennessee, for this year’s Baltimore Metropolitan Council Chesapeake Connection regional delegation trip.

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Renovations planned for treatment facility

The drug treatment facility on Buttercup Road in Sykesville, Recovery Support Services (RSS), will soon get a face-lift.

Commissioners Thursday approved a contract with The Lyons Construction Company Inc. for approximately $85,900 for renovations to RSS.

“The reasoning behind this project, commissioners, is to bring the facility up to a standard that can be measured by the Bureau of Facilities along with Citizen Services program, to keep the building in compliance according to the new contract," Facilities Bureau Chief Justin Megonnell said.

Project manager Thad Highlander outlined the proposed changes. The plan is to “paint and patch” most of the building, nearly 15,000-square-feet, install new window treatments, replace old furniture, and replace carpet in bedrooms with vinyl composition tile, according to Highlander. The cost is a little higher than usual because the building operations cannot cease for renovations, Highlander said. Work will have to be done over a longer period of time and in small doses, he said. Outside the meeting, Highlander said he hopes to start within the next 30 days.

There are 48 beds at the RSS facility, which provides housing and case management services for people in recovery. The building was constructed in 2007, according to Highlander, and there have been no substantial changes to it since then.

Commissioners approved the project 4-0.

Emergency management receives grants

In other business, the commissioners accepted approximately $683,000 in grant funding for public safety and emergency management.

As a member of the Baltimore Urban Area Security Initiative, Carroll County is eligible to receive funding from the Maryland Emergency Management Agency (MEMA), which is passed to it from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, according to the commissioners’ agenda. Carroll County will receive approximately $342,000 for law enforcement tactical support operations, hazardous materials response, mobile command vehicle operations, communications tower security, and regional planning for 2020, the agenda states. This represents an increase of about $71,100 from 2019, according to the agenda.

The State Homeland Security Program grant of approximately $124,300 will be used to respond to all-hazard events, operate an effective emergency operations center, and offer training on homeland security threats in 2020, the agenda states. This represents an increase of about $41,200. The funding is passed through to the State Administrative Agency from homeland security, according to the agenda.

The Emergency Management Performance grant will provide Carroll with approximately $108,300, plus a required county match, the agenda states. The total $216,700 will be used to fund emergency management staff positions, identify and assess threats and risks, and develop and conduct training, according to the agenda. The funding is passed through to MEMA from homeland security. The funding is nearly the same as the year prior, with a $356 decrease, according to the agenda.

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