Teen Court funds denied

Published 7:29 am Monday, June 10, 2013

JACKSON – “Our hands are tied.”

That was the response from the Northampton County Board of Commissioners on Monday when funding for Teen Court was requested again.

At the board’s regular meeting, Walter Smith, Executive Director of Northeastern Economic Empowerment Corporation (NEEC), requested $5,536 in matching funds for the Teen Court program.

Last year NEEC received a grant from the Governor’s Crime Commission grant which requires a $20,545 match. Smith has sought financial help on the match from the counties the program serves, Northampton and Herford. The grant was good from Jan. 1 to June 30.

Smith as appeared twice before in front of the Northampton Commissioners to request funding, once in August and in February. The commissioners tabled the requests due to the board not being notified before NEEC applied for the grant and, therefore, not allowing the county to budget for the funds.

NEEC has already implemented the program which allows teens who have committed a delinquent act, minor offense or have been charged with a misdemeanor to be tried in a court structure where the defendant is judged by their peers.

At Monday’s meeting, Smith requested the amount which was $645 less than what he requested in February.

Commission Vice Chair Virginia Spruill questioned Smith on the difference.

“The original request was ($6,181),” Smith replied. “Because of the reduction in expenditures the match has gone down.”

Spruill questioned if Herford County had submitted their share of the match.

Smith said he was meeting with them next week for their decision.

“I’ve not had a commitment from them,” he said.

Smith said to date Teen Court has had four cases and three of them were scheduled for this past Wednesday.

‘We have about 15 youth that have completed the entire process of training and participating in actual court cases,” he said.

Two local judges—Alfred Kwasikpui (now retired) and Vershenia Ballance Moody—have been working with Teen Court.

Commission Chair Robert Carter said the board appreciated Smith for returning upon request to see where the county stood on funding.

“I know you read the paper just like everybody else and you see how Northampton is struggling for three years in a row,” he said. “I wish we were able to offer you your matching funds, but respectfully, our hands are tied. We don’t have the funding. We hope that in the future that we will be able to match any funds that you would seek after first informing us that you’re going to be seeking such. I know this is not what you wanted to hear, but this is all we have to offer you.”

“We appreciate your consideration and we plan on continuing the program so we will be coming back to you,” Smith responded.