Friday, August 6, 2010

Hailey grants program brings needed revenue

Team effort nets $391,000 for fiscal year 2011

Express Staff Writer

Tracy Anderson

Hailey officials have had to adapt to new economic realities since the beginning of the recession two years ago, consolidating department positions at City Hall and putting off some planned capital improvements.

A successful grant-writing program at City Hall is helping the city get back on its feet.

In the last 18 months, Hailey acquired $745,000 in federal and state grants. Almost $400,000 of this money will be spent in the upcoming fiscal year, starting in October.

About 80 percent of the money was acquired from federal "stimulus funding" associated with the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009. The rest is from grants from the state of Idaho and non-profit organizations.

Budgeted revenue from grants totaled only $10,300 in 2009 and 2010. This year, the city has established a separate grant fund in the city budget to account for the new source of revenue next year.

"Grant-writing is a large part of how we do business now," said Hailey City Administrator Heather Dawson. "It's how we are making ends meet."

Rather than downsizing staff, Hailey has added two new positions. Capital funds will be used to match some of the grant funding for capital improvement projects.

It all began two years ago when Dawson received a message from the Idaho Association of Cities advising municipalities to provide a list of needs to the state. Since Jan. 1 of this year, several city employees have spent about 600 hours of staff time, and about $15,000 of city funds, writing grants.

The return on investment has been impressive.

Hailey Police Chief Jeff Gunter was successful last year in securing $200,000 for the Police Department, allowing for a new police officer position and equipment purchases. Hailey Planner Mariel Platt and Public Works Director Tom Hellen have secured an additional $400,000 in grants for increasing building energy efficiencies, renewable-energy studies, parks restrooms, a community garden and other city improvements.

One example of how these funds stimulate the local economy is a $176,000 contract for services with Hailey-based Roberts Electric to install a solar-energy system at the city's sewer plant.

Dawson said two primary requirements of the federal grants are job creation and energy conservation. This sits well with a city that established an environmental leadership program in 2008 and has led the way in developing "green" building ordinances in the Wood River Valley.

"We write in salary funding into the grants for job retention," said Dawson. "The great thing about stimulus grants is that they provide an evaluation of your grant if you are unsuccessful. This helps you hone your skills."

Tracy Anderson was hired two years ago in the clerk's office and soon began putting 17 years of marketing and proposal-writing expertise to work in the grant-writing program. She administers and writes reports on all of the grants.

"This has been an incredible team effort," said Anderson. "There is a lot of strategy involved. We have a 58 percent success rate, but I think we can do better next year."

Anderson said the city has more than $3 million in grant requests "under production" for next year, including a request for $2,600,000 to rebuild Woodside Boulevard in the city's Woodside subdivision.

Dawson said the city's work on a downtown revitalization plan, comprehensive plan and complete streets plan are necessary ongoing projects that will make more grant funding possible.

"Having these plans in place is a prerequisite for many of the grants," she said.

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