Monday, January 16, 2006

Grant! Grant? We Don't Know Nuthin' 'Bout No Steenkin' Grant...

The $10,000 grant to the Chestnut Hill Community Association -- funding that came from the Pennsylvania Department of Community and Economic Development -- has been a hot button issue with the Chestnuts. We know from this memo provide by former Community Manager Marie Lachat: the grant was noted in a June 24, 2004, report to the board. The image to the right is a copy of that report.

As far as interest in Hiram Lodge is concerned, serious study was underway in the fall of 2004. In an executive committee meeting on Sept. 9, 2004, it was reported under old business: "Sanjiv [Jain] gave his report. There is no need to spend 5K on an appraisal as the Masons are willing to share their appraisal report with us. They are asking 1.5 million for a 10,000 square foot building. The CHCA would not need to sell a building in order to obtain a mortgage." The issue is not merely whether the association was putting money aside or planning budget lines for real estate acquisitions; it is the intent these moves signaled to prospective real estate sellers and to CHCA board members. It is deception by omission in their "truth" diatribe.

Martha Haley adds her reaction to the CHCA management's Jan. 12 fable. She addresses the grant issue in more detail, including refuting the leadership's claim that bad records caused the problem.

Haley quotes, "There is another rumor frequently sited (sic) that the association somehow "lost" a $10,000 grant in the past year. This is another falsehood."

Nowhere in three months of emails to Mark Keintz (CHCA Treasurer since June, 2005), correspondence with other members of the Budget & Finance Committee (of which I am a member) and with Board members, news reports in the Local, meeting minutes, hand-outs prepared for the B&F committee members is the implication, insinuation, or accusation that the $10,000 was "lost" - in whatever interpretation the quotation marks around that word suggest. (Photocopies available upon request)

The money was never lost, but files badly kept for the past two years meant that the documentation on the grant had to be reapplied for, so that the money can be spent as specifically granted.

By November 3, 2005 when I made the initial inquiry to the Treasurer, I had the complete application to the Department of Community and Economic Development (specifications, drawings, requests for estimates). Copies were made available to the B&F Committee, a summary was prepared for the December 1 meeting, and were further distributed at the Executive Committee meeting in December with an oral report.

The first paragraph in the cover letter accompanying the grant application (dated January 28, 2004) states the following:

The Chestnut Hill Community Fund is requesting a grant so that we can accommodate the growth of our weekly newspaper, The Chestnut Hill Local.

The terms of the contract were specific and binding. They did not include repaving an exterior parking area as suggested by the CHCA Business Manager.

The "files badly kept" spin is a red herring and vulgar, too. The budgetary procedures were at fault in failing to identify this grant money. The handover of records to the incoming Treasurer was at fault causing Mark Keintz to be caught unaware when the question was raised. The office procedures for follow-up were at fault when all of the information required to use this grant for the contractually required expenditures at The Local were available "upon request."

Martha Haley


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