Parks grant program is detailed

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KEIZERTIMES/File photo

KEIZERTIMES/File photo

By CRAIG MURPHY
Of the Keizertimes

Coming up with the matching grant program was step one.

On Tuesday, members of the Parks and Recreation Advisory Board hashed out details.

In February, chair Brandon Smith proposed using the money the board gets each year as a matching grant program to help citizens get parks projects done. In recent years the Parks Board has had $20,000 to spend. This year’s amount will be determined during the annual budget process, which starts early next month.

The idea behind Smith’s program is proponents of qualified projects would see their contribution towards a project matched. For example, a group willing to put in $500 worth of labor for a project could receive $500 in equipment in a matching grant.

“We’re trying to define the program,” Smith said at Tuesday’s meeting. “Nothing is set in stone yet. We want to create a public-private partnership, to improve the quality of the park system. Instead of dedicating budget to one or two projects, we want to leverage those limited funds to engage motivated residents to work on parks they are most familiar with.”

Smith envisions groups or individuals submitting projects.

“Hopefully we’ll have a number of proposals to look at,” he said.

The program is modeled after a similar program in Salem. Richard Walsh shared those details, with Smith pointing out parts he wanted to differ on.

“Salem has a lot of red tape with their process, a two-year process,” Smith said. “I want to avoid that. My thought is we’ll have the budget ready July 1, so let’s do it this summer.”

Parks Board members agreed there shouldn’t be a minimum or maximum amount for the projects, though the cost couldn’t exceed the Parks Board budget.

“I don’t see why we should have a minimum,” Roland Herrera said.

When Smith and Herrera presented the idea to the Keizer City Council last month, mayor Lore Christopher opined projects should be limited to ones already in park master plans.

“My personal opinion is that’s a pretty big limitation,” Smith said. “There could be a significant number of things not in a master plan like a guy mowing on the weekends who wants a few bucks for gas. Or there could be an Eagle Scout project not necessarily in a master plan. Perhaps a consideration could be additional weight given to a master plan project.”

One of the main questions during discussion was whether project applications would be looked at once a year, once a quarter or each month. Part of Walsh’s reason for asking was he wanted to know what would happen if the money was exhausted halfway through the year, leaving no funds available for projects coming up later.

“I envision this being on the agenda each month,” Smith said. “Maybe we have one (qualified project) next month, but a better one comes in the next month. This first year, simple, let’s see how it goes. If something like that happens, maybe we amend it and do it quarterly next year.”

Another timing question regarded whether projects would have to be completed within a certain amount of time. William Criteser suggested applicants be asked to give approximate start and end dates.

“I like the idea of lighting a fire under people,” Tanya Hamilton said.

Smith suggested the grant application include the name of the organization or individual applying, contact information, a short project name, a project description including labor and materials needed, an estimated completion timeframe, involvement of volunteers, impact on the community and if recognition is requested.

Public Works Director Bill Lawyer asked if city staff would be purchasing materials, or if project requestors would buy equipment and get reimbursed by the city.

“For goods $5,000 or less, city staff can just go purchase things,” Lawyer said. “Is the city going to provide materials or provide the funding? If we provide the funding, we would need to set up a criteria of how we’re going to give them the money. If we purchase, it can be simpler. The reimbursement process is a much stronger process. We can hold onto the materials.”

Smith acknowledged that might be necessary just to protect funding assets.

“That brings up a good point: what if we fund a project that never gets done?” Smith said. “What if somebody wants to build a fence, has the city buy $3,000 in material for them and it doesn’t become a fence. We don’t have any recourse at that point.”

Lawyer championed the idea of making the program one of reimbursement.

“I cannot think of a grant program that is not reimbursement,” he said. “A project needs to be completed before we can submit for reimbursement. If we set it up as reimbursement, we can guarantee the project will get done. The other thing is, with this grant program you’re stewards of the money. Reimbursement is probably being the best steward.”

Parks Board members agreed unanimously to make the program one with reimbursement.

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