It was the simple matter of a budget amendment. Nothing all too unusual than in past Weatherford City Council meetings, but this time it created a bit of contention between one council member and the city manager.
At their meeting on March 11, the city council received a request from Kyle Lester, budget and strategic planing manager, to amend the 2015 budget. The amendment would allow for some of the funds - $10,000 - to cover a new public relations position, and $36,000 to extend a contract for the city’s grant writer position through the end of July.
Councilman Waymon Hamilton, however, asked how having the grant writer on staff has benefited the city.
“Have we received any grants we would have not received without her services?” Hamilton asked.
Lester responded that nothing has been received but that the city was in pursuit of several grants.
City Manager Jerry Blaisdell said that it was his decision when he brought on the grant writer to explore additional funding.
“Some of the funding is pending, obviously,” Blaisdell said. “There’s $200,000 in a park grant we are waiting to hear from; $400,000 in a parks and wildlife grant for the amphitheater; a $100,000 grant from PetSmart for a spay and neutering program and a $600,000 grant for library expansion. All of these programs, from the time we make application until they come in - we don’t know when they will occur.”
Blaisdell said he thought after what he has seen in the past that the position would pay for itself eventually.
“One of the things we’ve been missing through seeking grants is having somebody that continually makes those meetings with the Council Of Government to keep themselves aware of what grant programs are coming up,” Blaisdell said. “Certainly working on those relationships,which is probably one of the strongest things in making sure that we are aware of funding out therer and having an opportunity to make those applications.”
Blaisdell said he would encourage the council to continue.
“I know there is going to be a point in time where we see real value to this,” he said.
Hamilton equated it to using a fishing analogy.
“So I guess it’s like fishing, you may get a bite, but not getting anything, but hope to catch something down the line,” Hamilton said.
Councilwoman Heidi Wilder said she saw things from a “different point of view.”
“I think the $72,000 could be better spent on other priorities,” Wilder said, citing the total salary of the position. “To be honest with you [WPD Chief Mike Manning], [WFD Chief Paul Rust], [Library Director Chris Accardo] and [Terry Hughes, Transportation & Public Works Director] do a fantastic job at getting us grants. They get them through their cooperative memberships - through other cities - and they are on board with all of their associations and all of these things are brought to their attention.
“I think the [money] could be better spent...toward our strategic plan.”
Blaisdell agreed that the city has an “exceptional staff” but that from his perspective the city has “missed the ball” on a number of occasions as it related to grant opportunities.
“I’m a little reluctant, and certainly you may choose to do as you wish - you are the council - but at the point in time you begin to look at management issues and how to address those issues, it makes it difficult for whoever is sitting in my particular chair and move forward and do the things that they think are necessary at the time,” Blaisdell said.
Blaisdell’s remarks obviously struck a nerve with Wilder, who said she disagreed.
“Why would you bother to bring this forward for us to approve if all you want is a rubber stamp?” she questioned. “Then don’t bring it forward for approval.”
Mayor Dennis Hooks stepped in and calmed the discussion down, saying this was not the the time to have debate the topic. In the end, the council agreed 3-2 to extend the grant writer contract with Wilder and Hamilton voting no.
Lance Winter, 817-594-9902, Ext. 102
Grant Writer’s Position
Weatherford’s grant writing position has been in existence for approximately one year. The first six-month agreement ended in July and was extended through January. This is the third agreement and will go through the end of July.