Grant splits county officials


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Acquisition of a substantial grant has led to a dispute among county officials on Thursday.

In a rare occurrence, the Johnson County Board of Supervisors found themselves divided on the upcoming passing of a motion, which would allow Social Services to allocate a $60,000 grant into after-school programs for children who have been deemed “in need.”

Director of Social Services Lynette Jacoby presented a proposal to the supervisors on Thursday regarding the grant received from the Juvenile Justice and Youth Development Policy Board.

She would like to direct $33,000 toward Building Out Of School Time Opportunity, a program for Lucas Elementary that would provide after-school meetings, expansion of a youth-leadership summer program, and family meetings for children marked as high risk for involvement in the juvenile-court system.

Jacoby also intended to fund $32,000 into Big Brothers, Big Sisters of Johnson County. They would provide Sister’s Circle, a 10-week girl’s group aimed at violence prevention and personal skills development. In addition, all girls in the group would be matched with a mentor from the program.

“This past year in the Iowa City School District, the calls to the Police Department for disorderly conduct have risen,” she said. “Sixty percent of those were because of girls fighting in schools. Schools and juvenile court have identified this as an issue that needs addressing.”

Supervisors Terrence Neuzil indicated that while some of the supervisors had hesitations over going forward with these proposals, he now felt reassured it is the right decision, an opinion that was not reciprocated by Supervisor Janelle Rettig.

She said she belives isolating kids with special needs might only make problems worse, as well as be a tremendous burden on taxpayers. She expressed concern over Social Services’ doing little to help children with mental disabilities and focusing solely on those with behavioral issues.

“It seems that we just keep trying to do the same old thing to the same groups of people, and if we are going to try to be a substitute for school and after-school programing, we just don’t have enough money,” she said. “I think we need to focus more on programs that bring people talking together rather than draw them out.”

Supervisor Rod Sullivan said it was not necessarily in Johnson County’s hands to completely cover children with mental disabilities, and officials have chosen to work on behavioral problems instead.

“The state has taken that on as a role it plays,” he said. “There’s more money from them that goes into children’s mental health than this social-behavioral stuff. They’ve taken it as their role to provide for mental health issues.”

However, Rettig said, more could be done on the county’s part and the proposed programs would lead to far too much money being drained to be truly effective in the long run.

Neuzil said four supervisors were interested in putting the item on the formal agenda for a vote during next week’s meeting.

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