Matching-fund grants take center stage

By Dawn De Busk

Staff Writer

NAPLES — It is a common saying: “There is no such thing as a free lunch.”

Well, there is no such thing as a free grant either. Often times, municipalities need to pay for a percentage of the project when grant money is awarded.

The Naples Board of Selectmen on Monday established a policy that any matching funds grant application — being submitted on behalf of the town — must get a nod to go forward from both the town manager and the selectmen.

The decision to create such a policy derived from a conversation started by Town Manager Derik Goodine about the upcoming application process for the Community Development Block Grants. Each spring, Cumberland County divvies up grant money for projects designed to improve towns countywide.

Goodine asked for the board’s sanction to apply for a grant to assist in the cost of two studies for expanding the underground fire suppression lines. One study was to determine aquifer levels for a well system, and the other study would investigate drinking water qualities.

The topic of grants had also come up because the Naples Fire and Rescue Department (NFRD) had received two grants, and some funds needed to be appropriated to cover one-third of the expense.

Selectman Rick Paraschak questioned whether or not town grant writers should give Goodine a heads-up when grants would require the town to pay a percentage of costs, or pay an amount equal to the grant.

“If you apply for a grant and need matching funds from community, I would rather know upfront,” Paraschak said.

He explained the fire station’s grant writer, Paul Ratigan, filled out the grant application paperwork. Then, the town budgeted for its cost percentage, and the department received equipment or training at a fraction of the cost thanks to the grants, he said.

Board of Selectmen Chairman Christine Powers asked if there should be a formal process of notifying the town manager when such grants were in their early stages.

Goodine agreed, saying, “It’s nice to know I have the board’s support” ahead of time. He cited occasions when he had completed the paperwork, and then found out the project the grant would have assisted is one that the board was not behind. Other times, the matching funds were not available.

The board did vote, 5-0, to implement the new protocol. Goodine said as people let him know about matching fund grants during the initial application process, he would inform selectmen.

Goodine said he wanted the board to vote so it would be Kosher to write the rest of the grant.

Selectman Dana Watson said his vote would be to move forward with the paperwork only, and his vote was not a fiscal commitment.

“I don’t want to be obligated to buy more stuff,” he said.

Goodine responded, “No, we would be on a list to be awarded, but we wouldn’t be obligated to do it and spend money.”

Watson clarified that the vote was only for Goodine to start the grant application process. He asked that the motion be worded so spending money on projects was not tied to applying for the grant.

Any time a grant is awarded to a municipality or other entity, the recipient has the option to turn it down, Powers said.

Also, on Monday, NFRD Emergency Management Director Ephrem Paraschak said the department had received two grants.

One grant covered two-thirds of the cost for firefighting gear such as chaps and chainsaws, he said. A separate grant provided a $4,600 boost in buying radio equipment; and the town would be responsible for the remaining $1,300, according to Ephrem Paraschak.

He requested the board to appropriate $2,400 from the town’s Emergency Reserve, and said half of that money would be reimbursed through the grant and a state refund.

Selectmen approved the plan.

Earlier in the meeting, Powers stated a “formal motion” was required to accept the grants for NFRD and the board did so with a unanimous vote.

“Thank you. We have a lot of great people getting great grants for us,” Powers said.

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