By Maggie Behringer


DALTON, Ga. -- Even with an 8.2 percent increase in its annual Community Development Block Grant, the Dalton City Council's annual funding allocation was a disappointment to one local service organization.

Council members voted Monday on distribution of $441,488 from the federal grant, which is intended for programs that benefit low- to moderate-income residents. The city's goals are to increase the stock of decent housing, improve the community living environment and expand economic opportunities.

The biggest share of the grant, $260,000, will go toward the city's ongoing project to build a $4 million community center at Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard and Frederick Street. The city financed a $1.5 million bond to help pay for the construction.

At the same time, council members sliced funds to the Dalton Organization of Churches United for People, known as DOC-UP, from $9,900 this year to $3,141 in the fiscal year that begins July 1.

"That's quite a decrease," said Betty Brant, director of DOC-UP. "It's going to be a big hit."

The organization helps Whitfield County families with rent and utility payments in emergency situations. It is not eligible for state or federal grants and is mostly funded by 28 area churches and private donations.

Dalton Finance Director Cindy Jackson said the city isn't required to give more than 15 percent of the grant to nonprofits. She said the community center will provide valuable community programs.

"No one else who had an application could say they were going to serve thousands of people," Mrs. Jackson said.


Allocations from Dalton's $441,488 Community Development Block Grant by goal:

* Increase decent housing

$ 8,704: Dalton-Whitfield Community Development Corp.

$ 11,360: Action Ministries

$ 11,313: Family Promise

$ 3,141: Dalton Organization of Churches United for People

$ 12,4107: Northwest Georgia Family Crisis Center

$ 12,342: Family Support Council

* Enhance community living environment

$ 13,048: Girls and Boys Club

$ 11,360: Whitfield County-Dalton daycare center

$ 6,000: City of Dalton senior center

$ 260,000: City of Dalton community center

* Expanding economic opportunities

$ 3,516: Friendship House

Source: Dalton City Council

The community center will serve the same people that local nonprofits serve, especially children younger than 4. When it opens toward the end of the year, the center will house the Health Department's Women, Infants and Children program, Dalton-Whitfield Library programs, Creative Arts Guild activities and possibly Dalton State College classes.

"We think it's going to be a pretty unique center," Mayor David Pennington said.

Another social service agency, the Northwest Georgia Family Crisis Center, requested $14,000 and will receive $12,407 in grant money to fund a resident assistant position. Kathy Thornton, financial and operations coordinator for the center, said the organization secured a state grant to make up the difference and is more than happy with its CDBG share.

Mr. Pennington said he prefers to use the grant for one-time expenses and major projects rather than operational program support.

"We prefer bricks and mortar, if you will, because we know that will last," he said.

But Mrs. Brant said the economic crisis has reduced donations and increased applications for assistance to about 1,800 a year.

"If you stop and think about it, which is more needed at this time?" Mrs. Brant asked. "To me, community centers and things of that nature would be something you do in good times, not when people are hurting so badly."

Maggie Behringer writes about Whitfield County. Contact her at maggie.behringer