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Up County Center closing on May 31

(5/1) Having been saved once from closing by the Frederick County Commissioners when a major funding source ended, the commissioners werenít willing to step in again when the same thing happened to the Up County Family Partnership in Emmitsburg.

They voted unanimously in April to close the Up County Center rather than use $254,000 additional tax dollars to fund a center that has been deemed underutilized. The centerís last day of operation will be May 31.

The Maryland Department of Education cut its funding for the center for the fiscal year that starts July 1. The $254,000 cut was more than half of the Up County Centerís $506,140 a year operating budget. The money cut came to the center through the Maryland Family Network, a non-profit organization that runs 23 family partnership centers in Maryland. It is the centerís largest funding source currently. Currently, Frederick County pays $210,331 a year to the support the center and the remainder comes from a United Way grant and the Town of Emmitsburg.

The Up County Center provides parenting programs and educational programs for people who want to earn their GED. It also offers day care for children while their parents are using the centerís facilities and programs.

Emmitsburg Commissioner Glenn Blanchard said, "It is services that are needed. Itís not something you can cross a line through and say, ĎOkay, itís done.í"

Emmitsburg Mayor James Hoover called the closing "a sour pill to swallow" in his newsletter, but that he could see why the county commissioners saw the need to do so.

"It was reported that the center is currently serving eighteen families; the State requires that the family support center actively serve a minimum of 32 families. Year to date the center is operating at 40 percent below the Stateís minimum requirements," Hoover wrote. A family is considered actively served when they use the Up County Center at least five times a month. Emmitsburg Commission President Chris called it an unrealistic threshold for the center to meet given the population density of the area.

Staiger also said he was disappointed that the town hadnít been included in the discussions between the county and Family Partnership to see if a way to keep the center open could have been found. He doesnít feel that the county commissioners tried too hard to keep the center open. "Iím not sure how committed the commissioners were. I believe that [the funding cut] gave them cover to remove their funding without any pain."

Frederick County saved the Up County Center from closure in January 2009 when it took over the funding that Catholic Charities had been providing. At that time, the centerís employees became county employees and the county made some improvements to the centerís assets.

With the decision to close made, the Up County Center has stopped taking new clients and the county will offer the six full-time and four part-time employees severance packages and unused leave that totals $30,000.

Current clients can still continue using the centerís services, but they will have to travel to Frederick to do so.

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