Continuum of Care program to be run by MCAG employee

rgiwargis@mercedsunstar.comJuly 21, 2013 

— Merced County's Continuum of Care program, which secures about half a million dollars in annual funding for local homeless programs, will be subcontracted to an MCAG employee, the association's board voted unanimously Thursday.

"We're very happy that the program is going to continue in the most effective manner and still meet the regulations by HUD," said Lori Flanders, Merced County Association of Governments spokeswoman. "Everything will continue to run as it has, and it should be a seamless transition."

Merced County and the city of Merced has contracted with MCAG to administer the program since 2003, but MCAG decided to relinquish its role after funding requirements of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development became too complicated.

Last month, MCAG officials recommended subcontracting the Continuum of Care program to Jeanette Garcia, an administrative analyst and MCAG employee set to resign this month.

Garcia will share the $78,000 subcontract with Joe Colletti, from the Southern California nonprofit Urban Initiatives. Merced County will contribute $40,000, and the city of Merced, $38,000.

Despite subcontracting the work, MCAG will still have a small role in the program, Flanders said. "We're actually going to still be the applicant on (the) annual HUD application," she noted.

But Garcia will run the program on MCAG's behalf, including writing grants, coordinating monthly meetings and other reporting responsibilities.

Garcia will report to MCAG Executive Director Marjie Kirn, Flanders said.

Several Continuum of Care board members recently criticized the selection process, saying the subcontract was not properly posted for other agencies to bid on but ultimately voiced their support of the decision Thursday.

"I don't agree with it, but at this point, there was no other option because of the way it was handled from the beginning," said Renee Davenport, a member of the Continuum of Care executive board.

"Jeanette was the only alternative," Davenport said. Rather than stalling the process and complicating things with HUD, she said board members decided to drop their opposition.

Flanders said Garcia ran the program in the past and brings that experience to the table.

"It honestly takes a full year to understand the program and be trained on the aspects of it," Flanders said. "The fact that she has two years of experience under her belt — we'll be able to hand it to her and she can run with it."

John Carlisle, who sits on the group's executive council, said the complaints were never about Garcia's competence, but about the way MCAG handled the process.

"I think Jeanette has the ability and interest to do a good job," Carlisle said. "But when MCAG decided they were going to bail, they never came to talk to us, and to me that's common courtesy and good business."

Garcia's last day of employment with MCAG is July 31. The subcontract is one year and will be brought to MCAG's governing board for renewal next year.

"I feel comfortable that this will be renewed on an annual basis," Merced County Board of Supervisors Chairwoman and District 4 Supervisor Deidre Kelsey said during the meeting. "So if something isn't working, we can change it accordingly."

Reporter Ramona Giwargis can be reached at (209) 385-2477 or rgiwargis@mercedsunstar.com.

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