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Sexual assault center seeks financial aid

ASSISTANCE SOUGHT — Ashley Carpenter, director of the Upper Ohio Valley Sexual Assault Help Center; Tuesday asked the Brooke County Commission for funding. The board is one of several she is approaching after federal funds for the center and other nonprofit organizations were significantly cut. -- Warren Scott

WELLSBURG — The director of a regional nonprofit group serving the victims of sexual abuse approached the Brooke County Commission on Tuesday for financial assistance.

Ashley Carpenter, director of the Upper Ohio Valley Sexual Assault Help Center, asked the commissioners for $60,000 to help offset a decline in federal funding members of Congress expect to be remedied in three years.

Carpenter said the center is one of 84 nonprofit groups in the state that relay on funds issued by the U.S. Department of Justice through the federal Victims of Crime Act.

She noted the funds aren’t tax dollars but come from fines and other penalties paid by convicted offenders.

The amount has fluctuated over the years but dropped from $17 million last year to $5 million this year, resulting in the Sexual Assault Help Center seeing a loss of about $70,000 from its $300,000 budget, said Carpenter.

The drop has been blamed on a rise in out of court settlements, often linked to white collar crimes charged of large businesses, for which financial restitution has gone into general funds and not the VOCA fund.

This summer Congress passed legislation directing such money into the VOCA fund and implementing other measures to restore the VOCA fund over the next few years.

But Carpenter said until then, the center must find the means to continue serving adult and child victims of sexual abuse in five Northern Panhandle counties.

With a staff of seven, the center is available to such victims around the clock and throughout the week while also maintaining regular monthly office hours and training in sexual assault prevention at four local colleges.

Carpenter said the request of the commission is based on the number of victims served in Brooke County. She added she will be approaching other counties and municipalities for aid also.

Brooke County Chief Sheriff’s Deputy Scott Adams told the commissioners that, as a former member of the center’s board, he has seen the outstanding efforts its staff puts forth for those it serves.

In other business:

– The commission accepted a bid of $114,972 from Stryker for six hydraulic cots for the county’s ambulance service. It was the lesser of two bids submitted by the Kalamazoo, Mich. company, with the other, higher amount including a service agreement for them.

– County Commissioner Tim Ennis lamented the death on Monday of Orphy Klempa, a former state Delegate and Ohio County commissioner.

Ennis noted Klempa, who was 70, was a leader of a regional carpenters union and co-chairman of Project BEST, a group of contracting companies and trade professionals that pushed for responsible and safe practices in construction and the availability of training for aspiring apprentices.

– The board appointed Johanna Weiler to the Brooke County Museum board, adding there’s still a vacant seat on the panel. Those interested may submit a letter of interest to the office of County Clerk Kim Barbetta.

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