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Galax receives $80,000 law enforcement grant

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State grant aimed at after-school programs, prisoner rehab and gang reduction

By SHAINA STOCKTON, Staff
Grant funding projects remained a steady topic of conversation during Galax City Council’s Jan. 13 meeting.
A glance at the city’s packed agenda for the evening included a grant announcement from the Galax Police Department, and a grants update from City Grants Administrator Brenda Marrah.
Police Chief Rick Clark said his department received a state Department of Criminal  Justices Services grant totaling $80,000.
The funding was granted after Albert Stokes of the DCJS visited the city last year. He commented during his stay that he was impressed by the efforts from the police, the Galax Recreation Center, city schools and the Department of Social Services on their after-school programs, prisoner re-entry efforts and other programs. “He said that he really believes in what we are doing,” Clark told council.
Later, Stokes contacted Clark and informed him that he was looking into funding for a variety of projects to assist in the efforts. At the end of December 2013, he contacted Clark again to inform him of the grant, which will be put towards after-school programs, re-entry efforts, employability programs and a part-time bilingual gang reduction coordinator.
The grant will require no local match nor obligation to carry any programs forward beyond their funding level.
Clark commented that the projects funded by this grant roughly follow the theme of crime prevention.
Beginning with after-school programs, he explained that this will give children an outlet in instances where their parents work and they, under normal circumstances, would be unsupervised. “[Parks & Recreation Director Dave] Nelson would attest that many kids from the elementary through high school appear on his doorstep, and sometimes stay until they close,” he said.
After successful mentoring programs that were developed last year at the schools, Clark said that he has a plan to replicate those efforts at the rec center.
Re-entry efforts, for those who are struggling after making some mistakes, could mean the difference between relapses and integration back into the community. “I want to give them somebody to talk to for support outside of immediate family,” he said. “There will also be some employability skills in these programs. Not everyone knows how to present themselves during a job interview, what to wear, etc.”
The gang reduction coordinator, he explained will work to quell gang influences early on, before a problem can present itself.
“I envision this to be a cultural diversity education,” Clark said of the bilingual aspect that will be required of the position, in order to offer this opportunity to both the English- and Spanish-speaking communities within the city.
City council was requested to consider accepting the funding as provided, to amend the budget as necessary, and to authorize City Manager Keith Barker and Clark to sign off on the required documents to accept the grant funds.
“It says no match, and yet we’re being asked to consider amending the budget?” asked council member Sharon Plichta.
“There is no match, but it has a revenue and expenditure side,” Barker explained. The money will go into the budget, and be allocated for those designated projects.
“And this isn’t a competitive grant?” Plichta asked.
“No,” Barker assured.
Clark interjected before the vote, “I just want to say that I take no credit for this. [Galax High School Principal Justin] Iroler, and what Mr. Nelson does at the rec center... that’s what sold the program to Mr. Stokes.”
Council unanimously approved the funding as presented.

Other Grants

Three years ago, as of Jan. 3, the city’s grants administration program began with Marrah at the helm.
During her time with the city, she has spent many long hours writing and perfecting grant applications for the city’s schools, stormwater improvements, fire department, police department and much more.
As of this year, the total grants that were raised for the city through Marrah’s work topped more than $5.1 million, which spans across 81 different grant awards.
“This is the happy part of what I do, bringing it all in,” Marrah told council.
Funding from these grants has covered a myriad of needs that the city has expressed. Not limited to a simple number in a bank account, this money has been seen in job creations, new programs for the schools, new equipment for emergency departments, and even a new building that will serve as a woodworking studio in the near future.
Marrah said that her range in grant applications has covered pretty much everything, from small to large numbers. Recently, her applications have ranged from a pet sheltering trailer to an ambulance for Galax-Grayson EMS that was awarded on Jan. 1.
The EMS award, which totals $107,053 for an ambulance, requires a 20 percent match ($26,000).
Another $30,000 was also recently awarded for improvements to the city’s emergency medical dispatch.
“It has been my privilege and distinct honor to serve with the staff in this room,” she said as she concluded her summary. “To work for a council with such forward-thinking vision... it’s an honor to express that, and see how we have come through economic downturn to look at new ways of revitalizing this economy.”