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Virginia-Highland Association Rejects Safety Grant

Board votes to deny $3,600 grant

Virginia-Highland Civic Association board members voted to deny a proposal that would give $3,600 to the neighborhood safety patrol, Fight Back Against Crime.

After a lengthy discussion Monday night about the patrol, it’s function in the neighborhood and liability, the board voted 6-5 against the grant.

The money would pay for two patrol shifts per month for a full year.

"It’s not going to change the world, but it allows us to show financial support for safety efforts," board member Brian Gross said at the association meeting Monday night, according to a video transcript.

Member dues fund Fight Back on Crime, and nearly all the money is used to pay for patrols.

The civic association has never funded the patrol for liability concerns, among other issues, and the grant proposal aimed to get support from the group.

In the past, the civic association earmarked money for a seperate patrol in the neighborhood run by the civic association. The group earmarked $7,400 for the patrol in 2007, $20,200 in 2008 and $14,000 in 2009.

After 2009, the civic association “quit funding it because the return on investment was close to zero,” board treasurer Frazier Dworet said.

Off-duty city of Atlanta police officers dressed in uniform hired by Fight Back patrol the neighborhood four to five nights per week.

"We’ve seen that a strong contingent of residents in the neighborhood wish to direct at least some financial resources to public safety," Gross said.

Board members were vocal Monday and raised questions about how the patrol contributes to neighborhood safety and the liability connected with funding it.

"Safety is really important. It’s more important than $3,600," board member Lola Carlise said.

"I just want to see an exploration of the expenses that we need to put against it, the smart ones, the wise ones, and research done. And again, it might be Fight Back… it might circle right back around to there. And it’s a great program that I participate in, but I’d like to see it in comparison to other things."

The officers use unmarked cars when patrolling the neighborhood, and board members and residents questioned whether a marked patrol car would be more beneficial.

"To me, it serves absolutely no neighborhood-wide function to have an unmarked car going through that nobody knows who it is, where it is," Dworet said.

Organizers say the group can’t afford a marked car and officers pay for gas when they patrol the neighborhood for Fight Back.

Civic association safety chair John Wolfinger said a marked car would cost "thousands of dollars."

"I can’t understand what other ‘options’ there are than what I’m proposing here," Wolfinger said. "This is only $3,600. We’re not going to change the world with $3,600 and we’re not going to be able to afford to buy them a marked patrol car for 3,600 bux."

Gross said he chose to propose $3,600 based on a history of lack of support for the patrol.

"The $3600 was a number I came up with because I knew that there was no appetite in this association to actually pay for a patrol service," Gross said. "There was liability issues, there’s history, there’s all kind of reasons there’s no appetite."

Board members said Monday night they want to work with Fight Back to develop a more organized proposal for money.

The Virginia-Highland Civic Association meets the second Monday of every month at 7 p.m. at the , 980 Ponce De Leon Ave.

Editor's Note: The original version of this story incorrectly listed contributions to Fight Back. The group is funded by member dues and has never recieved money from the Virginia-Highland Civic Association. Patch regrets this error.

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David E. February 15, 2012 at 10:43 PM
Great report, Jaclyn. My full report on the Virginia-Highland Civic Association Feb 2012 board meeting is now available for your reading, watching, and comments: http://virginiahighlandconnect.org/2012/02/video-and-more-full-coverage-of-the-virginia-highland-civic-association-january-2012-board-meeting/ Includes: * Condensed Meetings Notes and Commentary (get the 2-1/2 hour meeting and comments in just a 5 minute read): * Full Video of the Meeting - watch it unfiltered * Handouts From the Meeting (financials; VHCA sidewalk repair plan presentation) Other highlights: * New! Balance sheet handed out. What you need to know: VHCA has over $200,000 in cash and CDs. * The board approved a budget that wasn't much different than what it proposed last month: just 1.3% of the total budget (adj for Summerfest & Tour of Homes) is for safety; and no budget yet approved for sidewalks. Although I understand there is intent to make a request for some sidewalk funding later in the year. There is $36,475 that is "unallocated to-date". Based on feedback from the neighborhood survey, I'd like to see: $25,000 of that amount allocated to safety, and $11,000 to sidewalk repairs. That would align the budget with the feedback from the neighborhood survey. * VHCA Sidewalk Repair and Street Issues Presented. Lot's of good stuff to read about * Update about APS rezoning * Crime & Safety Please let me know how you like the videos and if you find them helpful.
John Wolfinger February 15, 2012 at 11:02 PM
Allow me to make some corrections and additions to the copy above. The monetary amounts quoted for the years 2007, 2008, and 2009 were not made to FBAC - but for a VHCA sponsored patrol for the south side of the neighborhood that I inherited when I became the public safety chair. This patrol had been effective when it was first instituted by VHCA many years ago, but over the years the officers had changed probably more than once and it had evolved into a patrol system that was not effectively serving our needs. When I took over public safety - the only oversight of this patrol by the civic association was thru the treasurer who wrote their pay checks. The last year we even bought cell phones for the officers to have in their cars while on duty for neighbors to call them for assistance - but the majority of the calls were placed by me as I checked on them. After the decision was made to terminate this arrangement - this is when FBAC picked up the challenge to increase their patrol coverage for the entire neighborhood that we have today.
Beth Marks February 16, 2012 at 01:51 PM
To reiterate what John said, FBAC has NEVER received any monetary support from the VHCA in the 20 plus years I have been involved with the program.
Brian Gross February 16, 2012 at 02:28 PM
Just a clarification: when I said "I chose $3600 as the grant figure because there was no appetite to actually pay go a patrol" I meant no appetite to fully fund the patrol via the civic association. That is mutual on the part of FBAC and VHCA as the current situation works well, with FBAC funded via member contributions and operating independently of VHCA. That's why I proposed a grant of $3600 which represents 5% of FBAC's yearly costs. Not bringing the full funding and operations of FBAC under VHCA.
Jaclyn Hirsch (Editor) February 16, 2012 at 02:41 PM
Thanks for the clarification, Brian.
Jaclyn Hirsch (Editor) February 16, 2012 at 02:41 PM
Thank you John and Beth for the corrections/additions.
Stephen W. Ramsden February 17, 2012 at 11:44 AM
Close MJQ and you will eliminate the need for safety patrols in half the neighborhood.

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