Council OKs grant funding for Boys & Girls Club

KINGMAN - The Boys & Girls Club of Kingman will get some much-needed renovation money after the City Council on Monday decided to include it in a bi-annual grant request.

Council had been tasked with figuring out which projects it would submit in its bi-annual application for the Arizona Department of Housing Community Development Block Grants, or CDBG. The city is eligible for up to $597,340 in grant money, and must submit its grant application no later than May 1.

City staff had identified nine projects it considered viable contenders for the CDBG funds, most of them upgrades and maintenance for various city water and sewer lines. The total amount requested from all nine projects was $1.1 million, meaning Council had to pick which projects it most wanted to see happen.

The Boys & Girls Club, located at 301 N. First St., had requested $150,000 in CDBG funds for renovations to its restrooms and for the installation of a sprinkler system in its gymnasium.

Staff had placed the request on the bottom of its priority list, deeming the water and sewer line upgrades of more immediate importance to the city. The final staff recommendation was for Council to approve the funds for four water and sewer projects at Park Avenue and Commercial, the Richard/Smith addition in south Kingman, at First Street and Spruce and at Goldroad Alley.

Prior to voting, however, Council was met with a number of supporters of the Boys & Girls Club, including one of its own members, 10-year-old Ryan Bowser. With a little help from his mother, Karen Gurtler, Bowser rattled off the myriad ways the club has helped him and other children stay away from drugs and find things to do after school.

"Boys & Girls Club is a place where kids can have fun and where they can learn new stuff and do new stuff," Bowser said. "There are many friendly people there. They have a very nice and respectful staff, and it's easy to meet friends there because everybody's so friendly."

Bowser also praised the club's homework and Kids Lit programs, which help kids bolster their reading skills and get their homework finished so that they have more free time at home. He added that the club stresses activities that take the kids outside.

"Instead of sitting down and watching TV for the whole session, we go out and do something active," he said.

Local financial advisor Monica Busch also praised the club as among one of the few places in town children can go and feel safe. "I would like to just suggest that we try and find at least some funds somewhere in this project to help the Boys & Girls Club to do the improvements that they need," she said. "I don't know about you guys, but if there's only two stalls in the ladies' room and there's six of us that have to go to the bathroom, we have problems."

Kingman Unified School District Superintendent Roger Jacks also threw his support to the club, saying that it effectively extends the district's educational day. Some Council members questioned giving money to the club, considering that the building itself is actually owned by KUSD and leased to the club for $1 a year. With many city-owned buildings also in need of renovations, Vice Mayor Janet Watson questioned whether the district could lend any assistance as well.

Jacks said the district already performs routine maintenance on the building whenever club administrator Noreen Frisch requests it. But he added that the district is as cash-strapped as the city.

Councilman Kerry Deering asked Jacks whether the district could use some of its bond money to pay for the building work.

Jacks replied that the Boys & Girls Club was not part of the original bond when it was drafted in 2006. This means none of the bond money can be used directly for the Boys & Girls Club until all other bond work is completed, then whatever money is left over could be allocated for the building.

But with the district's biggest project, Lee Williams High School, only just now getting underway, Jacks said he could give no estimate on whether the district would have any leftover funds.

For her part, Frisch said she hadn't thought to ask the KUSD board for more money since she felt it had already done its part by allowing her use of the building. But without a sprinkler system or larger bathrooms, she said it would be difficult to host any larger events, such as a haunted house in October.

Council ultimately agreed on a compromise. While the Park Avenue and Richard/Smith water line projects were considered "musts," members agreed that the First Street and Goldroad lines could be put off, freeing up about $64,000 in grant funds. It wasn't enough to do both renovation projects for the Boys & Girls Club, but it was enough to cover the bathroom expansion, with a few thousand dollars left over.

Deering made a motion to approve submitting the grant application for the two high-priority water lines and the bathroom renovations, and Carole Young seconded. The motion passed 7-0.