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Friday, June 27th, 2014

Sources board votes to close area agency

Clients will still receive services

By Daily Standard Staff
CELINA -   Board members of Sources Community Network Services voted 8-0 on Thursday night to close the non-profit, antipoverty agency that has served the area for almost a half century.
The agency's programs, which serve clients in Mercer, Auglaize and Van Wert counties, will be taken over by the Lima/Allen Council on Community Affairs, Sources board president Tammy Barger said.
"The clients will continue to be served without interruption," Barger said.
Barger and other board members were tight-lipped Thursday night about why they thought closing the agency was the best course of action. LACCA has additional programs that should become available to local residents, she said.
"The people of both Auglaize and Mercer counties have used our services for quite a long time, and by partnering with the Lima/Allen Council, our citizens will continue to be served well," Barger said. "Combining resources will promote efficiencies and, we hope, allow us to reach more people with the dollars we have."
LACCA will act as the interim service provider for the area until the Ohio Development Services Agency officially approves the transfer of power, LACCA CEO Jacqueline Fox said this morning.
LACCA will take over the Heating and Energy Assistance Program on Tuesday and expand from there, working side-by-side with Sources throughout the changeover, Fox said.
"We are excited about the opportunity to expand some of the programs that LACCA has in Allen County to Auglaize and Mercer counties," she said.
Fox said her agency has for some time been discussing the possibility of taking over Sources's services, explaining the state encourages regionalization among community agencies.
"We think it's a positive move for all three counties to regionalize services," she said, "And that helps us reduce our administration costs and therefore provide more CSBG (Community Service Block Grant) funds for direct service to low-income clients."
The Ohio Development Services Agency is working to ensure that the clients and customers in Auglaize and Mercer counties continue to receive services, spokeswoman Penny Martin said this morning.
Founded in 1966 and funded with federal, state and local dollars, Sources offered a variety of utility, housing, transportation, emergency and other services to income-eligible residents.
"These services have been provided by Sources for several years, and no changes are planned for either the long or short term. A formal change of provider for the transportation services should occur over the next 60 days, but there should not be any changes in routes or service. The programs as they serve the public will not be affected," according to the statement released at the meeting.
Sources has been undergoing a state audit over the paperwork and approval processes for about $837,000 spent in the Home Weatherization Assistance Program the agency formerly ran. Board member Kathy Bayless said the agency has been in contact with the state about the audit.
"We have had favorable conversations with the state surrounding our decision and the future," she said.
Barger said she planned to talk to Sources employees this morning and would make no further comment about personnel changes.
LACCA plans to continue to have an office in Mercer County and add a site in Auglaize County, Barger said. The current location at 420 N. Brandon Ave., Celina, is to stay open until at least the end of August.
LACCA has agreed to add three board members each from Mercer and Auglaize counties, Barger said. The plan must be approved by the county commissioners of Mercer, Auglaize and Allen counties and the mayors of the cities within those counties.
"We have spent hours working with the various state and local officials to come up with the best possible way to serve the clients of Mercer and Auglaize counties," Barger said.
"We believe the best way to continue to serve our customers is to combine our resources with those of (LACCA)," Barger said in the release. "We need to conclude the audit issues while we meet the needs of the people we serve without disruptions."
Sources contracted with LACCA from November 2012 through January 2013 to assist with the day-to-day operations as Sources board of directors investigated management issues.
Former interim director Kirk Moriarty, who left the agency in May citing family reasons and a daily commute from the Fort Wayne area, this morning said closing Sources is the worst possible outcome and completely unnecessary.
Moriarty said Sources is financially solvent and, to his knowledge, not in dire straits; it maintained a very positive relationship with state auditors, he said.
Moriarty declined to comment on why the board may have decided to close the agency but said the agency has an almost paternal relationship with its clients, who have come to rely on its consistent service.
He questions how a metropolitan agency, with its own unique concerns and issues, can address the rural needs of Mercer, Auglaize and Van Wert counties.
Fox said LACCA is absolutely confident that the transition will go smoothly and it will delivery services to the satisfaction of citizens. LACCA will work closely with the local communities and their elected officials, she said.
Also at the meeting, HEAP Director Deb Kemper said the agency recently purchased 60 air conditioners for those in need. Thirty are being stored in Sources' Celina warehouse, and 30 are being held at Lowes in Wapakoneta for distribution. The agency also has 10 fans available. More air conditioners or fans can be ordered if needed, she said. Those interested should call for appointments which take place Mondays, Tuesdays and Thursdays from 8:30-11 a.m. All appointments are booked through July 9.
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