Tuesday, February 27, 2024

County denies allocation of remaining ARPA funds to nonprofits

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A hot topic agenda item during a regular meeting of the Hood County Commissioners Court on Tuesday, Nov. 28, resulted in a record number of community speakers and a whopping hour-and-a-half-long controversial discussion.

The agenda item in question would’ve allocated the remaining $498,852.40 of American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funds to two nonprofit organizations: Rancho Brazos Community Centers and Forward Training Center.

However, despite the majority of the community members advocating for the nonprofits to receive the remaining funds, many residents left the Hood County Commissioners Court meeting disappointed, following a 3:2 vote to deny the agenda item.

During the previous Nov. 14 commissioner meeting, the court approved the allocation of the $5.6 million pandemic-related ARPA funds in a 3:2 vote.

The vote allocated $3.5 million to construct three new combined fire and EMS stations in Indian Harbor, Baccus and DeCordova; $1.1 million to expand the current Pecan and Cresson Fire Departments; $500,000 to the Hood County Sheriff’s Department for new equipment; and $25,000 to the Hood County Constables for new equipment — resulting in a total of $5.1 million.

For new equipment, the Hood County Sheriff’s Office is requesting ballistic helmets, rifles, ballistic rifle vests and plates and night vision goggles. The constables are likewise requesting ballistic helmets, vests and plates.

According to the Hood County website, the Coronavirus State and Local Fiscal Recovery Funds (SLFRF), a part of the American Rescue Plan, delivers $350 billion to state, local and tribal governments across the country to support their response to and recovery from the COVID-19 public health emergency.

Awards under this program are intended to be used for projects benefiting Hood County that may involve the support of single or multiple organizations. Funds must be obligated by Dec. 31, 2024, and spent by Dec. 31, 2026.

During the Nov. 14 meeting, the court spent an hour discussing the allocation of the ARPA funds, with Hood County Judge Ron Massingill and Precinct 3 Commissioner Jack Wilson disagreeing with the way the funds would be split, and Massingill in particular advocating for a $500,000 allocation to Rancho Brazos. The final vote included fund donations to first responders only.

For the Nov. 28 meeting, Wilson placed a new item on the agenda, which would allocate $448,852.40 to Rancho Brazos Community Centers and $50,000 to Forward Training Center, totaling $498,852.40.

“After the last court where we distributed the ARPA funds to fire, EMS and the sheriff department, the balance that was left was $498,852.40,” Wilson said, during the meeting. “The $50,000 for Forward Training Center is for the addition after we gave them computers. Initially, they asked for $69,000. The balance will (also) be used for the long distribution center at Rancho.”

Wilson added that on the Thursday before Thanksgiving on Nov. 16, Rancho served 374 hot meals to residents in Hood County, and on Tuesday, Nov. 21, Rancho served 204 households and turned 15 vehicles away due to lack of food. On Wednesday, Nov. 22, Rancho assisted 14 households that had no food for Thanksgiving Day.

"All of those people are not Rancho,” Wilson said. “These were people from Cresson, people from Tolar, people from Lipan who came to the Granbury area for that food distribution. With this money, they will be able to get started on the distribution center which will make them eligible for Tarrant Food Bank as a distribution center and not just for Rancho; it serves the entire county and beyond in some cases. The benefit for that money going to them is beyond just helping those within Rancho Brazos.”

Following Wilson’s comments, Massingill added that this topic brought in “the largest amount of people” who had signed up to speak on any one agenda item since he had been in office for almost five years.

"We have 28 people up here,” he added, while explaining that the court would give each speaker two minutes each to say their piece.

While many residents gave up their time due to time constraints and to simply show solidarity to the nonprofit organizations, several members continued to speak in favor of the nonprofits receiving the ARPA funds, like Executive Director of Forward Training Center Katy Offutt.

Offutt explained that the American Rescue Plan Act was put in place to restore the American economic after the 2020 COVID-19 pandemic. She said Forward Training Center plays a “crucial role in achieving this objective for the citizens of Hood County,” by providing students with education that not only “secures sustainability and long-term employment,” but that it does so “without any financial burden on the students themselves by facilitating a pathway to economic growth.”

"We equip students with resources and skills that are needed in the community. Not only those who are proficient in computer applications, but also specialized training and technical fields, meeting the diverse needs of our community workforce,” she said.

Offutt also told an “impact story” regarding a young man who attended Forward Training Center’s youth program. She explained that he discovered a new direction in life and ended up enrolling in a trade school, which ultimately inspired his grandmother to also enroll in the program.

"She said, ‘If he can do it, I can do it, too.’ She didn't want to live off of her children any longer,” Offut said. “You can see the results of the impact in the area when seeing our students with these good jobs. We believe that this is turning culture around to advance local businesses. Forward Training Center is strictly about empowering people to be self-sufficient, and have long-term sustainability, which is good for our economic situation here in Granbury, and I'd like for y'all to vote ‘yes’ on the agenda item.”

Monica Hays, the operations director at Forward Training Center, added to Offutt’s comments by explaining that the grant money would allow the center to enhance its technology and bring much-needed resources to the population it serves.

“There is a disparity between the knowledge and applicability of using these skills to give them a leg up in their endeavors to get a job so this will help greatly in that effort, and already, they're at a disadvantage because when people do apply for jobs without the networking, communication and resources that we bring to them, they're met with algorithms that kick them out before they even get an opportunity,” Hays said. “So, this will greatly enhance our ability to help each person help themselves, and we appreciate you voting for the $50,000 for Forward Training Center.”

Crystal Moore, executive director of United Way of Hood County, then spoke to the court and encouraged them to the spend the rest of the ARPA funds on nonprofits.

"Just to give you some examples, our education services through the agencies with the United Way in the last 12 months went up 287%, our prevention services 487%, transportation services 873%, and healthcare services went up 1,679%,” Moore said. “I don't know a lot of businesses that are seeing that type of growth rate, and so we are coming to you and asking you to please consider giving to the nonprofits because if you don’t, we’re gonna lose people.”

Granbury resident Faye Landham spoke in favor of Rancho Brazos and the work the nonprofit organization has done to help children over the last few years.

"In 2021-22 they packed 11,000 backpack meals for the summer months,” Landham said. “In the 2023 school year, children in the after-school program read 2,500 books. Every week, they provide 60 to 75 hot meals for our after-school program. Monday through Friday, they average 50-80 breakfasts and lunches for children during the summer, averaging 150 families served through our Tarrant Area Food Bank drive averaging 70 children each day."

She said 100 families were served at the fall festival in 2022 and that Rancho served 400 Thanksgiving baskets. She added that Rancho also sponsors extracurricular activities like band, color guard, football and cheerleading.

"They established a seeking safety program after the loss and death of vulnerable youth, adolescents and young adults in Hood County,” Landham continued. “They have seven keyhole gardens to help provide fresh produce for the community and have been raising chicks since April. I have a whole long list of stuff that they plan on doing, but I would so much ask you to support Rancho Brazos.”

Ralph Hanna currently serves as the treasurer of the Rancho Brazos Board of Directors. He gave a history of the past funding from Acton United Methodist Church.

"After being an outreach for Acton Methodist Church, some forward-thinking people in the church made this a 501(c)(3),” he said. “Although through last year, it was heavily supported by Acton Methodist Church. Over 70% of our funding basically came from the church, but that changed starting this year, partly because the church lost about 60% to 70% of their membership, so they're no longer able to support us the way we were in the past. In 2023, we are $235,000 different meaning they've had that much more to give us last year than they had this year, so that's been about a 60% hit. We're just fortunate to have them and are still supporting us as best they can, but obviously we need other funds.”

Fred Orcutt has been involved with Forward Training Center since he moved to town 13 years ago, teaching Word and Excel. He said the vision of the center is to have “full employment to all Hood County residents,” and for “Hood County businesses to thrive.”

“Our mission is to educate, support and inspire life-changing growth in men, women and youth,” he said. “We serve many of the underserved people here in the county. Many of these people really don't have a good feel for themselves. They don't have a good self-image. They need help and if you don't believe in yourself, when you go to interview for a job, whether you're talented or not, you're not going to get it. And if you're not talented, you're even worse off. We help them to prepare their interviews, and we help them to know how to do the work they're seeking, so I ask that you vote in favor of these two nonprofits.”

Julia Pannell is a longtime volunteer at Forward Training Center. She said she worked there when “wires were hanging from the ceiling” and there was dirt on the floor.

"We're working to inspire people,” she said. “Drop the idea that we can raise all the funds on our own to grow. We cannot roll forward with the idea that these funds can expand. What Forward Training Center does is provide skills that no other agency in town does. When you're creating a product — and that product is skilled, successful citizens — in the long run it will reduce the tax dollars coming from us, so thank you, and please vote for that.”

Laurie Lilly, program director at Forward Training Center, explained that the students in the center range from ages 17 to 80, and that when they come in, they’re looking for a better life, hope and a sense of value.

"We function 100% with volunteers in our programming, and when these individuals come in and had no sense of even how to turn on a computer, we were so fortunate to have Sheila (Bartley), who functions in all of these roles and teaches all of these classes from basics all the way through QuickBooks,” Lilly said. “Now, if we didn't give them that opportunity to learn technology, they can be 80 years old and still need to go to work, and they're handicapped without having that sense of learning or functioning in that role. So that's exactly what we do, and we can't do that without keeping our equipment updated and allowing them to be successful, so please vote ‘yes.’”

Sharla Caro, executive director of Rancho Brazos Community Centers, explained that the centers’ benevolence has served 3,421 unduplicated souls in Hood County alone this year, which is 840 families unduplicated. She also stated that freight and charges for Tarrant Area Food Bank has cost Rancho $50,000, which was “free until March of this year.”

"When we speak to the Douglas Long Outreach Center, I want to be very clear: the goal is to reach a certain dollar amount, and that dollar amount would give us the ability to break ground on that 10,000 square foot complex to really make a bigger impact than we already are. If we are serving close to six- and-a-half thousand unduplicated souls in Hood County annually just this year alone, that speaks to the need.”

Caro added that although she is grateful for everything the emergency responders do, once the house fire is extinguished and the people are left, it’s the nonprofits that pay the deposits to get the individuals back in their homes.

"It is the nonprofits that help the families get the clothes on their backs and the furniture recovered for them, so when everyone goes home, that’s when the nonprofits come in,” Caro said. “I need everyone to understand that we are not in competition. We are sisters in nonprofit. We all look out for one another and we all partner with one another.”

She also pointed out that she sent emails to every commissioner inviting them to come out to Rancho Brazos and only one commissioner actually came out, while another one responded, “Thank you.”

“Two never responded at all. I don't understand why because we serve all of your precincts. I hope you see value in what we do, and I hope you vote ‘yes,’” she said.

George Sutton said he serves as chairman of the Forward Training Center Board of Directors and served as pastor at Acton United Methodist Church — pointing out that he has been involved with both nonprofits.

"There are changed lives as a result of both of these nonprofits. I have one word that I want to leave with you, and that is investment,” Sutton said. “You have funds available to you to invest in the citizens of this community and this county, so I hope that you will choose to invest those funds on behalf of lives that need change and that will receive change because of the agencies that we're speaking in support of today.”

Local realtor Morris Duree said he is “very supportive” of helping these two charities and asked that the court would also consider United Way of Hood County as another recipient of the funds.

"A lot of our local charities will go out and approach United Way for funds to help, and one nice thing about them is they vet the people and make sure that money is being spent appropriately,” Duree said. “You got a tough decision.”

Dr. Harold Granek stated that the ARPA funds were given to those who were negatively influenced by the pandemic, adding that it seems “reasonable that we should support these organizations.”

"Otherwise, this is like having the blind man with a cup, and taking money out of the cup, so I can eat better at a restaurant, because he doesn't need it, so please support this item,” Granek said.

Lillie Konah and Kelly Brewer from Workforce Solutions in Granbury combined their speaking time together to explain the importance in partnering with Forward Training Center.

"We just want to let you know we can't do everything,” Brewer said. “Sometimes we can't be that personal touch that Forward Training Center is so partnering with Forward Training Center, we are changing lives in this community. I've only been here since June, and I've already seen several lives — at least four than I can speak of — that came through our office, and their lives have changed.”

Konah added that working with Forward Training Center has been a “breath of fresh air.”

“I've seen the looks on the faces of people who have learned skills that would ordinarily not be able to make a change in their generation, their income and their family status, so putting money to invest in these nonprofits and these programs, I believe, is genius because you're building up people,” she said. “You're going to need people to build those roads, you're going to need the architects, you're going to need the skill sets that Forward Training Center is helping people get, but when we address the issues right now and get ahead of it, working together and putting money into investing, we make a better city, a better town, a better generation, and make it better for ourselves, even though we're not feeling it right now. To have the support of you all, and the funds that are available will make a tremendous, tremendous impact on what we see tomorrow.”

Lori Vale has been a volunteer at Forward Training Center since 2016. She stated that both nonprofit organizations give back and “play an important role” in continuing to make Granbury thrive.

“Our programs are geared toward giving a hand up, not a handout, thus putting less strain on resources, like various health ministries, at our churches,” Vale said. “These classes are giving new life and hope to our citizens by teaching new skills, instilling confidence and giving them an opportunity for a positive direction, so they can find more meaningful work and become part of the fabric of what makes Granbury a community in unity and Hood County as well. I hope you will consider what these nonprofits mean to the continued success of Granbury and vote in favor.”

Julia Richardson is the executive director of the Granbury Housing Authority and said she is familiar with all the nonprofits in town.

"Forward Training Center, I volunteer there and I send my residents there so that they can become sustainable and come off of that federal housing assistance,” Richardson said. “My grandbabies go to Rancho Brazos, so yes, I'm very much in favor of having the support for our nonprofits. Rancho helps my residents with utility assistance. All of these nonprofits, we do come together. We're not in competition. We're a band of sisters that come together to help our community and yes, this is reinvesting in the community into the citizens, so I'm just again with everybody else in support of this, and I hope you are as well.”

Two speakers, Harley Walts and Morgan Paul, also spoke in favor of the remaining ARPA funds being allocated to the nonprofits, as they experienced the effects of each organization firsthand.

Walts is the executive director at the Hood County Substance Abuse Council, but she said she was previously a 15-year-old girl in the Crossroads Youth program at Rancho Brazos Community Centers.

"I grew up in generational cycles of trauma, addiction and poverty. It wasn't until Rancho that I realized I could make something of myself,” Walts said. “Sharla has always told us and the families, and even the staff that we help families live a life beyond the rocks, and that's one of those things that kind of went over my head. I didn't really put any thought into it until I'm driving home one day, and I realized that before Rancho, I was under a crushing weight. There were rocks all piled on top of me. My breath was getting shorter by the day. I was giving up. I was done. I would not be here today if the team at Rancho did not pull each rock up off of me and let me see the light and let me breathe. I would not be standing before you today. So, I'm here to say that Rancho deserves this money. Forward Training Center deserves this money.”

Walts added that in May of 2019, she was the first Rancho teen to graduate from Granbury High School, where she placed in the top 25% of the graduating class of 500 students. In August, she became the first Rancho teen and the first in her family to graduate with a bachelor’s degree from Tarleton State University in social work, and in August of 2024, she will be the first Rancho teen and the first in her family to graduate with a master’s degree from Tarleton State University in social work.

"Y'all are tasked with a troubling, troubling situation. I don't envy the position that you're in,” she said. “But if you don't do it for yourself, do it for the 15-year-old girl that is struggling and doesn't know what's going to happen the next day.”

Paul is a recent graduate of Forward Training Center and revealed her success story. A year ago, she said she was unhappily married and was depleting area resources — but as of February, Paul is now a single parent to her two children and is thriving.

“I don't know the big picture of it. I don't know the agenda of all of this. I just know that I went to Forward, I graduated, and next month I'm off of every government assistance program that I was on,” she said. “I can live with just me and my two kids and be confident in the networking and the programming that Forward taught me. There's always going to be other needs in the community, but we're going to be the ones doing the work — if you train us to.”

While so many Hood County residents spoke in favor of the ARPA funds being allocated to both Rancho Brazos and Forward Training Center, two residents also spoke against the topic.

Greg Harrell said both he and his wife served as teachers at Forward Training Center’s predecessor organization and that his wife was on the board of that organization as well.

"I know that they're doing good work. There's no doubt about it,” he said. “The unfortunate thing is that you have before you a question that probably should not be before you at all. You have been put in a position that in my opinion is untenable and unfortunate. James Madison, the fourth president of the United States, and who was considered the father of the Constitution, was quoted as saying, ‘Charity has no part in the legislative duty of the government,’ so you are in a position that he would have never had you been placed into, so I just ask for you to consider his words as you take up this question today and whether or not this is even really your responsibility."

Former Hood County Republican Party Chair Nate Criswell said the work of both nonprofits is “much appreciated and needed,” but that “nonprofits are not within the role of the county government.”

"As an alternative to putting this money toward nonprofits, I think this money should be put into our infrastructure, emergency services, and other statutory requirements as we prepare for that expansion where we will see more traffic on old Acton Highway and Old Granbury Road," Criswell said. “These nonprofits are great, but this money and the Cares Act money before it could, should, and would be better spent on the infrastructure that is severely lacking. We are not ready for the future as far as our traffic. Being fiscally conservative means being willing to say ‘no,’ even when your heartstrings are getting pulled off, and that's very easy to do at the federal level. It's a lot more difficult to do here locally, and I ask you all to please practice some fiscal constraint and vote ‘no,’ on this item.”

Following comments from every speaker, Precinct 4 Commissioner Dave Eagle started off his statement by saying his discussion is going to be on why giving ARPA money to select charities is wrong.

He began by explaining there are 33 or more nonprofit organizations in the county like Hood County YMCA, Allies and Youth Development, American Red Cross, Anxieties Solutions of America, Brazos Pregnancy Center, Cystic Fibrosis Foundation, Habitat for Humanity of Hood County, Hood County Cancer Services, Hood County Senior Center, Hood County Substance Abuse Council, Mission Granbury, Paluxy River Children's Advocacy Center, Pecan Valley Centers on Behavioral Services and Salvation Army.

“I'm not naming all the nonprofits that come up in Hood County when I do an inquiry on nonprofits, but the question is: ‘Who gets what?’” Eagle said. “And I'm gonna start with this: ‘Where did this money come from?’ 'Whose money is it?’ ‘Is it federal money?’ Some will say yes, it is. But actually it's not federal money. It's our money. There's no such thing as federal money. Every dime the federal government has, it took from us. A government entity actually generates no income so every penny comes from a taxpayer in one form or another, so this money really never belonged to the Feds until they plundered it from us. The feds take our money through income tax, claim it as theirs, launder it, send it back under ARPA guise, and redistribute it back to smaller government entities with numerous strings attached.

“So, now that I have identified where it came from, I'm gonna go to the next part of this discussion, and state it's not our money to give. This is not our money to give, and it's really not ours to give to the charity of our choice up here, because I've already rattled off many, many charities, so who gets to make that decision? I've heard some great stuff about these two charities, don't get me wrong, and it sounds to me like they're doing great, great work. But I believe that it is immoral for us to redistribute money that comes from the taxpayer to certain given charities. It's not anything personal about it, that's just my philosophy.”

Eagle also mirrored Criswell’s stance, arguing that the ARPA money should be given back to the taxpayers by way of infrastructure, fire departments, EMS and the Hood County Sheriff’s Department.

He also added that giving the ARPA money to the nonprofits is “against the remote platform of Texas.”

"I have an MBA, I study finance and economics. I have a doctorate in jurisprudence and I've studied the law, so I'm giving you some background material because one of the books that I rely on, for instance, is called, ‘The Law,” Eagle said. “This book was written by Frederic Bastiat, 1850, and it talks about legal plunder.”

Eagle also referenced the book “Economics in One Lesson,” by Henry Hazlitt and “Capitalism and Freedom” by Milton Friedman.

“I say all this because every one of these charities are doing great work, excellent work. But, you know, it puts us in a position to redistribute the wealth,” he concluded. “I've heard nothing but good stuff about them but it's not about that. What it is, is what is the role of government and context? Do we have a right to redistribute the taxpayer's money to two really good charities? I have no qualms about that. But I'm not sure we do.”

Precinct 1 Commissioner Kevin Andrews told both Walts and Paul that he was inspired by their stories and added that the court is put in an “untenable situation of taking out of one pocket and putting it into another.”

"This money is your tax money. Every penny of this is tax money," Andrews said. “This is not something that I like to talk about. I give far more charitably than I give in taxes, and I don't want the government taking my blessing from me. That's my blessing to give. That is the choice that I have to make. My place as a government official is to get out of your pocket, so that you get to make the choice of which of the charities you get to support.”

Precinct 2 Commissioner Nannette Samuelson then addressed some information that she felt the public was not aware of — like the fact the first round of ARPA grant funds totaling $1.2 million was allocated to Ruth’s Place, Pecan Valley Center's on Behavioral Services, Mission Granbury, Hood County Committee on Aging, Paluxy River Children's Advocacy Center and Texas EMS. She said additionally, $350,000 was allocated to purchase the mobile library, which provides library services to the community, and another $132,000 from the current year budget will be allocated to nonprofits.

Samuelson also did some research on what other counties are doing with their ARPA grant funds.

She said Guadalupe County dedicated $12 million to establish at least three emergency response centers, while additional ARPA funding will pay for fire engine support, including dispatch, a records management system, laptops for first responders and an additional radio tower. Floyd County used its ARPA funds to upgrade its water infrastructure and installed optic infrared devices on its law enforcement vehicles, and Smith County constructed new lift stations, built a new water well and water treatment plant, and installed two new water filtration systems.

“As you can see, there is a mix of infrastructure in law enforcement and first responder support,” Samuelson said. “It is my opinion that this is the duty of the commissioner's court to provide essential services to the community. I applaud the work of Rancho Brazos and Forward Training and the multiple other nonprofits that we have in Hood County. They're among the great nonprofit organizations that we have here. We are blessed in this community to have people who make personal decisions every day on which charities they will support.”

Samuelson ended her comments with three quotes: Robert Stillson from the Capitol Research Center, who states, “Charitable giving is an inherently voluntary transfer, but government's transfer of money from taxpayers to private charities is anything but voluntary;” new U.S. House Speaker Mike Johnson, who states in his seven core principles of conservatism, under number six, “People are better qualified to make decisions about their own lives and finances than bureaucracies;” and then lastly, a quote from President John Adams, "Stand on principle, even if you have to stand alone.”

Wilson also reminded everyone that he does support fire, EMS and the sheriff’s department, along with local law enforcement “without question.” He also reminded the public that the volunteer fire departments — which previously received ARPA funds — are also 501(c)(3) organizations.

“Let that sink in,” Wilson said.

Massingill said he was glad the court had differences of opinion, pointing out he had an entirely different opinion from three of his fellow commissioners.

“I think Mr. Wilson and I share pretty much basic philosophy about helping 501(c)(3)s, whether it be the fire department or whatever else here in the county,” Massingill said. “But I'll get a little bit closer honed in than some Austrian or German here that Mr. Commissioner Eagle has sided with, and I'm gonna go to the Texas Constitution, Article Three, section 51A, that says, ‘The Legislature shall have the power, by General Laws, to provide, subject to limitations herein contained, and such other limitations, restrictions and regulations as may by the Legislature be deemed expedient, for assistance grants to needy dependent children and the caretakers of such children, needy persons who are totally and permanently disabled because of a mental or physical handicap, needy aged persons and needy blind persons.’

“So don't sit up here and preach to me and tell me that our constitution does not allow government to help out needy dependent children. We've always done it. To say that is somehow unAmerican, or that goes against my grain, well good. It doesn't go against my grain.”

Massingill stated the court also heard the public testify about the number of meals Rancho Brazos has available, the number of people they serve, and the number of people they turn away because they don’t have enough food.

"We all know the school program that they sent these children home with sack lunches on the weekend, and these kids are eating the sack lunches on their way home because they know the older people in their house will eat their food if they take it home. That's the seriousness of what we got here for food,” he said. “You tell me that the constitution that I just read to you doesn't allow government to feed kids. I firmly disagree with you. I also have a law degree. The difference between Mr. Eagle and myself is that I practiced law for 53 years. I'm also listed in the best lawyers in America for the last 20 years. So I guess I have to disagree with Mr. Eagle's interpretation and the interpretation that my other two commissioners here on my right have.”

Massingill also cited attorney general opinions like JM-1240 which states, “It is the intent of the legislature that every Texan legitimately in need of emergency food assistance receive health as rapidly as possible through the cooperative efforts of both the public and private sectors.”

He also stated another attorney general opinion, JM-185, which says, “The Texas Constitution itself makes it clear that the support of paupers is a public purpose. Texas Constitution Article 16, Section eight — allowing counties to provide a poor house and a farm. The housing authority is to provide housing for low income families serving a public purpose, therefore, expenditure by county funds is more appropriate for the support of paupers, it does not violate Article Three, section 52 of the Texas Constitution.

“So don't come up here and preach to me being a lawyer for 53 years, that it's somehow unconstitutional or unlawful to take our funds and feed our children and needy persons, because I just don't believe it, and they haven't cited you anything that says that we don't have to feed them,” Massingill said. “When people up here tell you that they're just so conflicted, go ahead and use your own personal money here if you want to support these good causes up here. I do that. We have an obligation as government officials to the poor, the needy, the dependent, that we've got to feed them, folks. We can't let them starve to death out here, and that's pretty close to what we have.”

Massingill also read two emails that he received from Mission Granbury Executive Director Dusti Scovel, in which she stated that since receiving funding through ARPA, Mission Granbury has helped over 4,900 community members — 53% of whom were children.

"I support Rancho Brazos 100% and believe the work they do in the community is outstanding, and their after-school program is imperative for the working families who live there," Scovel’s email reads. “We enjoy having a partnership with them. There are other nonprofits who serve a broad scope of the community such as the Salvation Army and Ruth's Place — two agencies we are proud to partner with. They could both use additional funding, not to pay salaries or overhead, but to provide direct help to those in need. Forward Training absolutely needs more funding and its services actually help people get on the road to sustainability.”

Scovel said her concern when she first saw the agenda item is that the distribution seemed very unbalanced and not thought out.

"There are so many unmet needs being addressed by agencies serving the entire community, as opposed to one that is serving a small portion of the community,” her email reads. “A more equal distribution would have greater impact across Hood County. I'm not one to write a letter like this, but I feared the focus has become so political, that the unmet needs of the community aren't even known.”

Scovel told Massingill that two years ago, there were 62 homeless individuals in their system. Today, there are 167 homeless people. Last year, 18 senior citizens needed grocery delivery, but now, there are almost 40.

"So many families survive on one income because they only have one car, and we have no public transportation,” her email reads. “The lack of affordability and health care means chronic disease will go unchecked for many. These, my friend, are some of the unmet needs of the people.”

Scovel also sent another email the next morning, suggesting the funds be distributed evenly to six nonprofits that provide direct services to people in crisis: Hood County Children’s Charities, Salvation Army, Rancho Brazos/OTS Community Center, Ruth’s Place, Hood County Senior Center and Forward Training Center.

"These are the organizations who, along with Mission Granbury, work the front lines of crises in our community,” her second email reads. “They see the need firsthand and provide services to help families get past the crises and back on their feet. All of these organizations are running low on funds, and we all have to look at reducing the level of service we provide. An even distribution of these funds across all six organizations would have a broader impact community-wide and benefit more people in the community, especially if the funds are designated for use for direct air, not overhead or salaries.”

Wilson then made the motion to approve to allocate the remaining ARPA funds to Rancho Brazos Community Centers for $448,852.40 and Forward Training Center for $50,000, totaling $498,852.40.

Massingill seconded the motion, however the motion failed as Samuelson, Eagle and Andrews voted “No.”

ashley@hcnews.com | 817-573-1243