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Crenshaw Commissioners discuss Family Sunshine Center proposal, possibility of sportsplex

The 9 a.m. Crenshaw County Commission meeting featured discussion largely centered around a request for funds from a Family Sunshine Center representative.

Tay Knight, director of the Center, led off the workshop portion of the Commission to describe the mission of her organization and request funds.

The Sunshine Center, according to Knight, focuses on “solving the problems of sexual assault and domestic violence” with various resources including shelters.

“I wrote a request in a letter to the commission, along with more information about the Sunshine Center and the services we offer. In the fiscal year 16-17, which ended September 30, 2017, we calculate that we provided a little over $57,000 worth of services to residents of Crenshaw County. That includes crisis calls, safe shelter, as well as counseling and prevention and education programs,” Knight told commissioners.

“What we requested is 5% of that cost of $57,000, so an allocation of $2,800 from the county commission from your budget,” Knight explained.

Commission chairman Charlie Sankey, Jr., questioned Knight mainly concerning the sources of the organization’s funding, finding first that the organization is a 501C3 charity and receives federal funding, mainly through the “Victims of Crime Assistance Fund” through the U.S. Department of Justice, with “70% of total funding through federal and state grants” according to Knight.

“In the last couple of fiscal years, have these funding sources been able to fund you fully,” Sankey asked.

“The straight answer is yes, because our fundraising budget, which is where we are going out and seeking donations from private citizens or corporations or foundations, that number fluctuates to balance the budget for what grant funds do not meet,” Knight responded.

“I’m just trying to keep from funding from taxpayer dollars twice,” Sankey explained.”

Also during the workshop, several commissioners, particularly District 3’s Merrill Sport, spoke with Crenshaw County Economic Development President Robyn Snellgrove on ongoing projects to retain local businesses.

Sankey and Snellgrove also discussed a shared goal of finding funds for and building a sportsplex as a future project in the county.

“Crenshaw County is rich in athletics. I think if we’re going to attract retail like we want it, it would need to be somewhere south of the hospital, or somewhere north of the bridge in Rutledge to build a nice sports facility, a sportsplex with tennis courts, a pool, fields, which I think will attract traffic, hotels, and all that come along with it. I would like to speak with [Luverne] City Hall about it, if this commission is ok with that. Especially the girls’ fast-pitch is becoming a really big sports attraction in this area,” Sankey, Jr. said.

“I don’t want history to do us like it has done us in the last 40 years, where we have these opportunities but Troy to the east, Greenville to the west, Andalusia to the south and Montgomery to the north do it and we think ‘I wish I had done that.’ So, let’s foster dialogue on this, and look for tax dollars to service the debt we would incur,” he continued.

During the regular meeting, the commission discussed the request from the Family Sunshine Center.

Commissioner Ricky McElwain said he appreciated the work of the center and Sankey Jr’s questions regarding the funding sources of the organization.

“I don’t think they’re asking too much, it’s just where is it coming from?” he concluded.

Sport followed a similar line of logic, “when someone asks for money and it’s not a line item we have two choices: take it from somebody else and give it to them, or establish or generate a revenue source, which we aren’t really in the business of doing. Bottom line is, we have to ‘steal’ it from someone else to do it,” Sport said, “

“Or generally what happens is, it gets voted as a general fund item and take it out of reserves,” Sankey clarified.

“And we don’t like to do that,” Sport replied.

Sankey pointed out that the request would better coincide with a time that the county budget is being constructed, which this request did not.

The meeting then adjourned.