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YAP removes Sanbornton youth from program

May 19, 2010
SANBORNTON — In a move that shocked members of the Youth Assistance Program's board of directors, Sanbornton voters defeated an amendment to adjust the Health and Welfare line of their budget and give the program $45,000 as their contribution to YAP's annual operating expenses.

Northfield, Tilton and Sanbornton have all supported YAP since 1975 for purposes of court diversion, parental support for children who are or are at risk of getting in trouble, and education programs for schools in the Winnisquam Regional School District. During their March town meetings both Northfield and Tilton voters approved their portion of the YAP budget as requested.

Sanbornton's Budget Committee and selectmen placed $1 in that line of the budget to allow for public discussion of the requested funds at their town meeting, and plenty of conversation they got on May 12 as people on both sides spoke passionately about the program.

Northfield resident and Merrimack County Sheriff Scott Hilliard addressed the crowd as a member of the YAP Board of Directors. Hilliard explained the program was designed to keep children out of trouble. With a drop in the economy towns typically see a rise in crime in and needs for the services of YAP were definitely on the rise.

"We have 50 active cases right now, 32 from 2010 and the rest have been carried over from 2009," Hilliard said.

YAP's two employees have not received a raise since 2007, he said, and the board was doing everything they could to keep expenses down and bring to Sanbornton a "very conservative" budget.

Sanbornton resident Sherry Kemp said she found no accountability from the program for the money requested from taxpayers. Most of the money, she said, seemed to be earmarked for salaries and benefits for the two employees. She, as well as others throughout the discussions, said the schools already provide three psychologists and school resource officers to deal with problems with students in the district.

Tim Lang, Budget Committee member and also a WRSD School Board member, said district employees do not deal with a child who might smash a mailbox or get into trouble outside of school, making YAP a necessary tool for local youth.

School councilor Lauren Zimmerman agreed with Lang. Students have come to know Director Martha Douglass and Assistant Director Dawn Shimberg through YAP programs in the schools, so when she refers families to YAP that alleviates some fear and uncertainty.

"The kids say 'Oh- that's Dawn. I know her,' and encourage their parents to work through YAP," Zimmerman said.

Selectman Steve Ober commended YAP for working with troubled youth but was puzzled as to why the program decided not to join with the countywide youth program in Laconia as once was discussed.

Ober also said there was a lack of accountability for community service the youth were required to perform. He said he has worked with many of them and when they were there, they did a very good job. However, he said he too often found the children either fail to show up for work projects or leave before completing them.

"You don't have the capabilities of monitoring these children on service programs. I'm disappointed you didn't join with Laconia," Ober said.

When it came time to vote, Moderator Liz Merry requested a hand count to determine if the amendment to add the $45,000 had passed. In the end, voters narrowly rejected the amendment.

An emergency meeting was held Monday, and the YAP Board of Directors ultimately decided YAP would continue to provide services in the schools and for individuals in Tilton and Northfield but, for the coming fiscal year, Sanbornton youth will be removed from the program and referred to county programs instead.

"A lot of these kids have a hard time getting to Tilton or Sanbornton for service work. I don't know how they would ever get to Laconia," Hilliard had said Wednesday.

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