Council: No to $5,000 for activities for children

City Council, in a 4-to-2 vote, pulled $5,000 of city surplus from going to an eight-week summer educational enrichment program, “Summer Counts,” put on by the Community Alliance for Progressive Positive Action on West Fourth Street.

Councilwoman Bonnie Katz, and Councilmen Don Noviello, Randall J. Allison and N. Clifford “Skip” Smith voted to pull the funds while Councilwoman Liz Miele and Councilman Jonathan Williamson voted against removing the money from the amended ordinance.

Council President Bill Hall was absent.

The program has a $20,000 budget and received $9,000 from the Lycoming County commissioners and $6,000 from District Attorney Eric R. Linhardt.

“I was informed that CAPPA needs $5,000 to complete the summer program,” Mayor Gabriel J. Campana said after the vote. “I’m an advocate for children and activities for our kids. In regards to the council vote, I have no comment because it was decided by them.”

“I don’t want to see the $5,000 go to CAPPA,” Katz said, initiating the amendment to the ordinance. “We have so many of our own programs just starting,” she said.

Miele said the city needed to make the money available and the administration could decide not to spend it.

“The city doesn’t provide education,” she said. “We’re providing matching funding and educational backup for summer for students who will fall further behind in their studies.”

Smith, meanwhile, prepared a list of 15 questions for Loni Gamble, the non-profit’s executive director and founder, who did not go to the meeting. Miele said before taking the vote, an attempt to reach Gamble by teleconference was possible.

Smith said the nonprofit organization’s asking for city money in the middle of a grant period would set a precedent. He noted while $5,000 may not seem like a lot of money, it is for those having to save for city and school taxes. “A little adds up,” he said.

He also questioned CAPPA’s prior affiliations with STEP Inc. and the Lycoming Housing Authority and wondered, if they are providing educational enrichment for the younger students, where is the Williamsport Area School District.

Earlier this month, a member of CAPPA told the council the school district had a longstanding affiliation with the group, but it was a matter of the grant cycle.

“I would like to see $5,000 go into our city recreation programs,” Smith said.

Katz added that $5,000 could potentially be used for the salaries for the new evening hours at the summer recreation programs at city parks.

Williamson said he would rather have had the discussion in August of September in 2013, giving time for the organization and city to potentially mesh recreation into educational programs offered by the organization.

Council has retained the money necessary to complete the painting of Susquehanna Bank Park at Bowman Field after the Crosscutters’ season ends.

In doing so, a low bid by a company that was awarded a contract to paint the stadium grandstands remains intact.

Allison was concerned that the bid remain because the next highest bid was $20,000 more.