County To Provide $100K To AGH, $200K To Cricket Center

County To Provide $100K To AGH, $200K To Cricket Center
Pictured, from left in a file photo, are County Commissioners Josh Nordstrom, Chip Bertino, Jim Bunting, Joe Mitrecic, Ted Elder, Bud Church and Diana Purnell. Photo by Charlene Sharpe

SNOW HILL – The Worcester County Commissioners this week agreed to provide a $100,000 grant to Atlantic General Hospital in the coming fiscal year.

Though there was initially a motion to eliminate the hospital’s grant during budget discussions this week, the commissioners voted 6-0, with Commissioner Bud Church absent, to provide Atlantic General Hospital (AGH) with a $100,000 grant.

“We’re still in — hopefully coming out of — the pandemic, but there’s still a lot of expenses involved with that and I think it’s our local hospital and we need to support it,” Commissioner Josh Nordstrom said.

Last year, approval of the county’s budget hinged on a $100,000 grant to AGH. The grant, which was removed in early budget discussions, was put back in at the last minute when it became clear Church wouldn’t vote for the overall budget — and the budget wouldn’t have the votes to pass — if it wasn’t included.

This week, Commissioner Chip Bertino quickly made a motion to zero out the grant to the Berlin hospital. The hospital had requested $200,000 for fiscal year 2022.

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“I don’t believe we should be giving a grant to AGH,” he said.

Commissioner Jim Bunting seconded the motion while Nordstrom voiced objections.

“I understand we got bogged down in it last year,” Nordstrom said, noting that the hospital had asked this year for twice as much. “I just think we should keep it level like we did last year.”

Commissioner Joe Mitrecic pointed out that the AGH donation was a contentious issue and not all the commissioners were present. Commissioner Diana Purnell agreed and suggested the board delay a decision.

With the motion to zero out the grant on the floor, however, the vote proceeded. It failed 3-3, with Nordstrom, Mitrecic and Purnell in opposition.

When Mitrecic said the tie vote left the grant in the budget at $200,000, Bertino made a motion to grant the hospital the same $100,000 it got last year. The motion passed unanimously.

While the commissioners went on to fund most social service groups at a flat level, the Cricket Center, Worcester County’s child advocacy center, received approval for a $200,000 grant. In years past, the agency — which requested $275,000 this year — has received $10,000 from Worcester County.

“I don’t think I’m alone when I say our eyes were opened when they gave us a presentation here a few months ago about their mandate from the state, about the fact that they are not funded by the state, that what they do … it affects the entire community with the children who are harmed,” Bertino said.

Though he suggested giving the agency $200,000, several of his peers questioned the amount. Nordstrom said it was a huge jump, while Bunting said it didn’t make sense.

“I don’t believe they made the case for an amount when they came in front of us,” he said.

Bertino pointed out that the county had been giving numerous groups, including the Delmarva Discovery Center, grants in recent years. He stressed that the Cricket Center had a critical role within the community and was in the process of trying to raise money for a new facility in Snow Hill. He said the center’s employees spent a good portion of their time fundraising just to keep the center in business.

“Is that really the best use of their time?” he said.

Mitrecic also spoke up in support of an increase in the center’s funding. He pointed out that the amount could be reduced next year.

Commissioner Ted Elder said once the agency received that level of funding one year it would be hard to cut it in the future. Bertino, however, stressed that his motion was not for a multi-year grant.

“Quite truthfully I think the welfare of children and families in need is more important than the welfare of a couple of otters in an aquarium….,” he said. “I do hope they come back to us for grant money next year. What they’re doing, what they’re trying to accomplish, the families they’re trying to help, these are the most victimized people in our community and they deserve to be helped and we have a responsibility as a government, as a community, to do so.”

The commissioners voted 4-2, with Bunting and Elder opposed, to include a $200,000 grant for the Cricket Center in the coming year’s budget.

About The Author: Charlene Sharpe

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Charlene Sharpe has been with The Dispatch since 2014. A graduate of Stephen Decatur High School and the University of Richmond, she spent seven years with the Delmarva Media Group before joining the team at The Dispatch.