The Montgomery County Council this week turned down County Executive James P. Gleason's request for an emergency appropriation of $243.840 to continue the recreation department's Outreach program for troubled youths.
The council suggested that Gleason and the director of the program, Charles Steinbraker, revise the plan with an eye to cutting costs and coordinating their program with those of private youth organizations in the county.
Steinbraker and representatives of the youth groups said they intended to meet and formulate a new proposal.
Gleason's request had sparked debate between the county-funded Outreach program and the five privately funded youth organizations in the County. The active workers in both types of organizations appeared at a public hearing on the matter last week - not to discuss combining efforts, as to do, but to debate whose efforts should get more money.
The private organizations and their supporters had balked at the sum of money Gleason proposed for Outreach and critized the effectiveness of continuing the program.
"When you're messing around with a quarter of a million dollars you want to know which programs should be expanded," said Steve Goggin, director of the Takoma Park-Silver Spring Sunshine Youth program. "This has been a subject of discussion for a quite a while and clearly the jury is still out. This is a premature sum of money."
"The combined budget for all five of our programs doesn't equal that," said Charles Atwell, director of the Wheaton area Middle Earth Youth Services. "The average budget of one of our programs is $35,000. All of the youth centers could expand if they were given some of that money and they'd still have some left over."
"There was no community or youth service," Atwell said of Gleason's proposal. "We found out about the proposal accidentally. We made copies of it and passed it around to other youth groups."
The dispute comes on the heels of efforts to get the youth organizations in the county to coordinate their efforts and programs. According to Atwell, there was a time when Montgomery County had half a dozen 24-hour hotlines for youths to call about their problems, until the other groups bowed to the county-sponsored hotline.
"This was the wrong time for Gleason to bring up something like this," said council member Elizabeth Scull after the public hearing last week.
"A proposal to fund a program like this OUtreach is urgently needed," Scull said at this week's council meeting. The program's supporters say it has worked to draw youths loitering in shopping centers and parking lots into more productive activities.
"On the other hand we have five programs also serving the needs of youth through drop-in centers," she continued. "I've shepherded them throught budget season. But I've only been able to get minimal funding for them because of the budget crunch. But now the county has found money for another program."
Other council members harped on the seeming money inequity.
"We've had memos from the executive saying we've had to tighten up," council member Norman Christeller said to Gleason at the council meeting. "I guess you've decided to tighten up on private programs."
Gleason, who called the Outreach program "one of the only real preventive efforts we have in the youth services area," said the program was never meant to block private programs. "This program works countywide. The others work locally. We've able to concentrate workers in problem areas," he said.