Agape changes prompt questions

Published 10:06 pm Saturday, March 12, 2011

The Agape Community Health Clinic stands empty Saturday during its down hours. (WDN Photo/Jonathan Clayborne)

From December 2008 through December 2009, Beaufort County government granted $279,000 to Washington-based Metropolitan Community Health Services to help get the Agape Dental Clinic up and running.

Last December, the Rev. David Moore, chief executive officer of Metropolitan, told the Washington Daily News the dental clinic would be expanded thanks to a $900,000 Facilities Improvement Grant from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

Dr. Dalyn Webb, the clinic’s dental director, said the grant would allow Agape to hire an additional dentist and install eight more dental chairs.

At the time, the clinic had two chairs, Webb said.

In the past couple of weeks, Moore confirmed to local media that the clinic was having to scale back on staff.

He denied rumors the clinic is on the verge of being closed down.

“My dental costs were just too high, so I had to reconfigure,” Moore told the Daily News. “What we’ll do is we’ll go with the dentist and dental assistant, and then we’ll contract with a dental hygienist, and they’ll come in once a week and do the cleaning of teeth.”

Late last year, the clinic had a hygienist on staff.

The clinic’s remaining staff hasn’t scaled back hours, Moore said.

“Unfortunately we haven’t been able to č most of our population are the poorest of the poor, and with a $50 co-pay our folk can come in and basically get upwards of $400, $500, $600 worth of work done,” he stated.

Moore said Metropolitan remains committed to providing dental services.

“But I tell you, when I’m facing challenges of a payroll we have to – no matter who we employ, we have to pay them,” he said. “I’ve got a lot of needs, and we just have to be as prudent as we can when it comes to budgeting and taking care of people when it comes to their dental needs.”

County aid

Public records indicate the dental clinic wouldn’t have gotten off the ground without help from Beaufort County government.

According to minutes from meetings of the Beaufort County commissioners, the Agape Community Health Clinic “emerged in 1998 from a Rural Health grant. They constructed a new health clinic with twelve (12) exam rooms in May of 2006.”

The health clinic is separate from the dental clinic.

On March 6, 2008, Moore asked the commissioners to make a one-time allocation of $279,000 to help start dental services at the clinic, which is located in a converted bowling alley off Martin Luther King Jr. Drive.

During discussion of the issue, Moore told the board that $100,000 of the requested money would be used to hire a dentist and get the clinic in operation.

“The remaining $179,000 could be utilized within the next twelve (12) months,” the minutes read.

Commissioner Al Klemm made a motion to grant the $279,000, with $100,000 to be paid immediately and the rest to follow over 12 months.

The motion was approved by a 5-2 vote, with Commissioners Hood Richardson and Stan Deatherage dissenting.

The clinic began offering dental services the weekend of Jan. 5, 2009, according to minutes of the commissioners’ Feb. 2, 2009 meeting.

A dental operating budget provided to the county by Metropolitan showed the entity projected a $110,000 salary for a dentist, a $35,000 salary for a hygienist and $43,500 for fringe benefits.

Total personnel and fringe-benefits costs for these positions were projected to be $188,500.

In a request for the fourth quarterly installment of the county grant, Moore wrote that the clinic had a full-time dentist and staff.

The grant-installment request, received by the county on Dec. 18, 2009, listed grant revenue of $209,250 and patient revenues of $20,154.66.

Salaries paid out came to $67,595.32, and total expenses – including office supplies, equipment, fringe benefits and others – came in at $173,292.14.

A pattern of success

Local, state and federal records show Metropolitan, Agape’s nonprofit parent, has been successful at obtaining public funds and generating income.

The Daily News obtained copies of Metropolitan’s federal tax filings for 2007 and 2008. These records are open to public inspection.

For 2007, Metropolitan reported $769,208 in government contributions (grants) and $2,195 in direct public support.

The organization’s total expenses were more than $1.233 million, and net assets were valued at over $1.164 million.

Metropolitan reported $492,654 in salaries and wages and $107,524 in employee benefits.

Net revenues from patient services and medical records fees came in at $475,889. Total revenues were over $1.2 million.

In 2008, Metropolitan reported $892,899 in contributions and grants with total revenue of more than $1.29 million.

Also in 2008, the Rev. Lynn Bolden, Metropolitan’s chief operating officer, was paid $99,592.

Michael Coyle, the medical director at that time, was paid $104,076.

Other individual salary information wasn’t specified.

From 2004 through 2008, Metropolitan received gifts, grants, contributions or fees exceeding $6.3 million, the 2008 return shows.

Reached for comment Friday and Saturday, two county commissioners č Klemm and Richardson, both Republicans č said they would not favor giving Metropolitan additional county funds.

Another commissioner, Democrat Ed Booth, said he would have to hear a proposal for additional funds before agreeing to commit more county money for the clinic.

“As far as funding them again, we haven’t sat down and looked at what’s going to happen,” Booth said. “I would have to look at it.”

He confirmed his conviction that Metropolitan has been a good steward of its money, and that the nonprofit provides vital services to needy patients.

“What I consider good stewardship is the services (Moore) has provided to the people who do not have those services,” Booth commented.

Told about the salary information contained in Metropolitan’s tax returns, he said, “I’m kind of surprised to know that it was that much.”

Booth added, “I hope and pray that (Moore) can keep these services going for the people of Beaufort County.”

Klemm, who made the original motion to grant the $279,000 for the dental clinic, said he hadn’t seen recent financial reports on the dental clinic.

“I have no idea what the problem is right now,” he said. “The main thing I know is the county don’t have any money.”

Asked whether he would entertain a request for more funds, Klemm replied, “I would favor them working that out themselves.”

Richardson concurred, but added that county taxpayers shouldn’t “provide dental care to anybody.”

“Giving them the money was a bad idea to begin with,” he said. “We never should have done that. But it’s their business. They need to run it any way they want to.”