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Manassas Economic Development Director urged denial of NEW School grant

MANASSAS, Va. — Treasury agents within the Manassas City Government have been unable to recoup a $10,000 grant made to the NEW School after it closed its doors just months after opening.

The grant from the city’s Economic Development Authority stipulated that the cash must be paid back if the NEW School closed within its first five years. The NEW School opened in April and had shuttered by fall.

A letter and multiple phone calls requesting to speak with Alice Mergler, the owner and director of the failed after-school education center and recipient of the grant, have gone unreturned.

Manassas Economic Development Authority Chairman Holmes Smith approved the grant. He, too, said that he has been unsuccessful in reaching Mergler to recoup the funds.

Despite the independent authority’s approval of the funds, City documents obtained by Potomac Local show Manassas City Economic Development Director Patrick Small, who works for the city government, thought it was a bad idea. His letter dated in February and addressed to school co-founder Keeyana Mahoney states:

“…your application was evaluated against the criteria of several programs that the city offers to new and expanding businesses. Awards are based on statutory eligibility and return on investment.”

Localities have a track record of providing economic incentives like tax breaks or grants when companies create multiple jobs. Mergler and Mahoney were the NEW School’s only full-time staffers at the time the school opened.

Holmes said he did not see the letter, but noted that he did take Small’s recommendation into consideration before awarding the grant.

“As we travel across the state, we hear time and again how important education programs like these are,” said Smith. “Given the chance to vote again for something like this, or similar, we would probably vote for it again.”

The NEW School was located at 9830 Liberia Avenue. The non-profit business aimed to provide a place for students to do homework, take SAT prep courses, learn robotics and prepare students for college and the workforce.

The City EDA will meet in a special session at City Hal on Tuesday, Dec. 13, at 7:30 p.m., and again during its regularly scheduled gathering on December 20 at 7:30 p.m.

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