Grant-dollar competition hits high

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As competition heats up for state grants, Moffat County's community leaders are assessing the best way to position their requests.

City and county officials met Monday to discuss the projects they'd like the Colorado Department of Local Affairs to fund during the April 1 cycle.

Competition for the $20 million to $25 million that is available in Energy and Mineral Impact Assistance Grants has reached record highs. There were 110 applications in the Dec. 1 grant cycle.

"With a recent record high of 75 applications, 110 is a significant increase," said Tim Sarmo, Northwest Region manager for the Department of Local Affairs.

The state gives Energy and Mineral Impact Assistance Grants three times a year, with application deadlines April 1, Aug. 1 and Dec. 1.

Natural resource development companies in Colorado pay a severance tax, which funds the Department of Local Affairs' Energy and Mineral Impact Assistance Grant program. The grants are meant to offset the effects of energy development in communities.

"Certainly, there is a great deal of energy exploration and development activity going on, and that creates a ton of impacts," Sarmo said. "Local governments are responding to that."

The amount of money available for grants fluctuates, Sarmo said. In some cycles, the department distributed $5 million.

There is no limit to the number of applications groups can submit from one county. But local officials have long operated under the philosophy that fewer applications mean more success.

Seven proposals were on the table Monday night. Officials will meet again in March to discuss which of those will move forward.

City officials would like a $40,000 grant to update financial software and $125,000 for street overlays.

County officials want funds for weed spraying and equipment for the road and bridge department.

Fire district officials could ask the Department of Local Affairs to offset the estimated $800,000 expense of a new fire truck, but officials are uncertain whether they will apply.

"At this point, we are not prepared," Fire Chief Chris Nichols said. "We're still debating if we'll go in."

Craig/Moffat County Econ--omic Development Partnership Director Tim Gibbs is considering asking for $50,000 to level 10 acres owned by the city on First Street.

But he said he doubts the organization will have the chance this cycle.

"I think we have to get in line," he said. "There are other projects that have been in the hopper for more than a year."

Gibbs said he hopes to develop the site into a small industrial park. Businesses that are expanding or new businesses would use the park, he said.

"Our focus will be on job creation," Gibbs said.

Gibbs said he is pursuing other grant opportunities as he waits to see if he'll be able to apply in this grant cycle.

Three Moffat County organizations received grants in the past cycle.

Most applicants will learn in March whether they were successful, but City Manager Jim Ferree was notified last week that the city was awarded a $1 million grant.

Because there were so many applications, the Department of Local Affairs staff evaluated them before sending them to the advisory board.

The staff made an administrative decision to fund the city's request because of the level of community support, the quality of the proposal and the degree of need, according to the award letter.

The money will go toward a $7 million water plant upgrade, construction on which is slated to begin this summer.

In addition to grants, financing likely will be in the form of a low-interest loan from the Water Resources and Power Development Authority, Ferree said.

Christina M. Currie can be reached at 824-7031, ext. 210, or ccurrie@craigdailypress.com.

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