Board questions Crossroads director

Published 1:03 pm Thursday, April 15, 2021

After nearly an hour of questions, accusations and explanations Tuesday, April 13, the Prince Edward County Board of Supervisors appear no closer to a decision about funding the Crossroads Community Services Board or whether Virginia state code even requires participating counties to allocate money to the program.

The supervisors agreed to withhold the mental health organization’s 2021-22 budget allocation of $60,000 during a Tuesday, April 6, budget workshop. The board requested that Crossroads Executive Director Dr. Susan Baker appear at its April 13 meeting to answer questions about housing and other items.

Baker attended Tuesday’s meeting and gave a presentation about the history and current status of the services Crossroads provides. Crossroads currently serves 875 clients in Prince Edward County out of a total of 3,000 clients. She pointed out to the board the portion of Virginia code she says requires counties to allocate money for Crossroads. Board Chair David Emert interpreted the section of code differently than Baker.

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“As we read it now, it is not a requirement,” Emert said while saying he would ask for clarification on the code.

In addition to the funding question, the county asked Baker about the future of housing for clients in the area and potential bylaw violations on the Crossroads Board of Directors.

Emert said the supervisors heard Crossroads would discontinue renting apartments to clients as of June 30. Baker said an agreement has been signed that will have Crossroads continue managing those properties through the end of 2022.

“I have made an offer that has been voted on and accepted by the private board to continue through the end of next year, until such time as they either sell the properties, take over their own management of the properties or find their own management company,” Baker said.

Supervisor Dr. Odessa Pride, who currently serves as Prince Edward County’s elected representative on the Crossroads Board of Directors, said she was pleased to hear the organization would continue managing the housing.

“You have assured us that those people would not be homeless, that they would be taken care of, and I am very happy to hear that,” she said.

Emert also brought up the bylaws of the Crossroads Board of Directors, which do not allow immediate family members of Crossroads employees to serve on the board. When pressed by Emert, Baker admitted the board currently has two members who are relatives of Crossroad employees currently serving on the board. Baker’s explanation was that the board has placed that portion of the bylaws “on hold” while the board works to revise the bylaws.

“I guess my question is, as a director, why have you not said to those people, ‘you cannot vote,’ when the bylaws clearly state that?” Emert asked.

Baker said the hold on the bylaws was put into place before the two board members with relatives joined the board.

It was pointed out to Baker that the Crossroads board appears to be “pretty much dysfunctional.” Baker said among the 14 members, nine of them are new.

“They are learning about us. They are learning their jobs. They come from different walks of life,” Baker said. “Yeah, right now we are having some struggles, but we are working on it. People are stepping up, and I believe we will get there. But I can’t lie to you. The reality is sometimes they get a little heated and a little concerned, but we are working on it.”

Baker’s explanations did not resolve the impasse with Crossroads’ funding to Emert’s satisfaction.

“As pretty much anyone can see, you can see why we are in a quandry as far as giving money when there has been an outcry from the community,” Emert said.

At the conclusion of the board’s nearly three-hour meeting, Emert returned to the Crossroad’s funding issue.

“Do some serious thinking about what we want to do and what has been brought out,” Emert said to the other board members. “I think bringing her (Baker) into a meeting and realizing that people are very concerned about what is going on may open some doors or shock some people. I’m not asking you not to fund it, or to fund it. Just think about it.”

Baker said after the meeting she is hopeful the board will put the Crossroads clients ahead of any bureaucratic disagreements.

“I continue to be optimistic that the Prince Edward Board of Supervisors will continue to fund Crossroads CSB,” she said. “Putting clients and services first is the ultimate goal we have in common.”