Grants are a vital part of a city’s financial strategy, helping to fund projects ranging from sidewalks to pond gates to a duck pond. However, grant regulations can be difficult to navigate, and without the proper effort many cities end up leaving money on the table.
Last year, the City of Victoria added the position of grants administrator to help achieve one of the recommendations of our Global plan 2035 – use external grants to help make the community’s vision a reality. As the Grants Administrator, I help coordinate and execute all stages of the grant process, from finding opportunities to applying for funds to ensure we meet all grant conditions once funded. received.
Our new strategy recently paid off when we received a matching grant from the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department of $ 621,000 to repair the Riverside Park Duck Pond. The city’s first attempt to repair the pond was cut short when crews learned of structural damage that would make repairs much more expensive than originally thought. Thanks to the TPWD grant, we can start working on the duck pond this year and we still have funds for other projects.
Sometimes research and collaboration can lead to opportunities outside of grants. For example, the future Texas Department of Transportation beautification project on the Loop began with a conversation between Mayor Rawley McCoy and TxDOT Yoakum District Engineer Paul Reitz about cleaning up Victoria’s viaducts. Improving the corridors was important to the mayor as he recognized that entrances play an important role in economic development.
Through this conversation, the mayor learned that TxDOT funds local beautification projects on state highways. I started researching TxDOT’s Green Ribbon program with the help of other city leaders. Eventually I learned that this was not a grant program at all but an opportunity to partner with TxDOT on an improvement project.
While this partnership is different from the projects I normally manage, I was able to coordinate with state officials and city leaders to ensure that the resulting design would be well suited to our community. As the mayor said in his last State of the City address, sometimes just reaching out and asking questions is enough to do something, and I’m glad this project is part of his legacy as as mayor.
The grant process can also create opportunities to work with our community partners. For example, the city worked with Victoria ISD to identify areas where sidewalks could be added to help students get to and from school safely. These recommendations helped us apply for a TxDOT grant to add sidewalks near O’Connor Elementary School and Stroman Middle School.
When deciding which projects to pursue, we take into account the recommendations of the community, the availability of funding, the best return on investment and many other factors. Although the current project is focused on O’Connor and Stroman, we have identified many other campuses that would benefit from sidewalks nearby, and we hope to seek more funding for these areas.
Community involvement is a key part of the grants project, as state and federal officials like to know that the projects they fund will be well received by their communities. By getting involved in our blueprints and attending public meetings, you can have a say in the projects we carry out, and you can show those in charge that we are committed to making our city better.
Katy Connally is the Grants Administrator for the City of Victoria.