Routt County hires grant writer as available pandemic relief money booms
At a town hall meeting in Steamboat Springs in June, Sen. Bob Rankin had some advice for local officials.
With an influx of money from the federal government from the American Rescue Plan, Rankin said there would be about 50 to 60 bills laying out how the sate would spend this money.
“Because we, the state, like to control things, we will set those up as grants,” said Rankin, a Republican from Carbondale. “I can’t say this enough — hire yourself a grant writer.”
While all three Routt County commissioners were in attendance and couldn’t miss the seriousness in Rankin’s voice as he spoke, they were already ahead of him. At the time, commissioners had authorized the hiring of a grant writer, and Caroline McClenahan started in the role July 12.
The county has never had a grant writer, instead often relying on department heads to write grants. With the tide of available grant money rising, Routt County Commissioner Tim Redmond said the hire could be a sea change for the county and its ability to take advantage of grant funding.
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“I’m extremely excited, especially now trying to navigate through the stimulus funds that are coming from the state and federal government,” Redmond said. “Having a full-time, dedicated person that can watch that, put all their energies into it. … We’re going to be ahead of the game.”
When he was mayor of Hayden, Redmond said the town hired Mary Alice Page-Allen as planning and economic development director and part of her role was writing grants. At that time, Hayden was anticipating the closing of the Hayden Station power plant in 2038 and felt like they had 19 years to plan for it.
“That turned out not to be the case, so the fact that we got started, got her on board earlier, got Hayden ahead of the game,” Redmond said, referencing the accelerated closure date of 2028 for Hayden Station.
Page-Allen has secured a number of grants for the town, including some that have proved to be crucial to opening the Hayden Center.
When department heads wrote the county’s grant applications, Redmond said they would often find out about them just days before the application deadline. Not only does putting these applications together take away from the bulk of a department head’s job, but Redmond said the applications sometimes suffered.
“It’s going to be more efficient, it’s going to be more professional, and we’re going to have a better understanding of what’s out there and how it can be applied,” Redmond said.
Not only does he want McClenahan to submit quality applications, but Redmond said he hopes the county will stay on top of what money is out there for them by having grants be McClenahan’s sole focus.
While somewhat of a new role for her, McClenahan said she worked at the University of Wisconsin at Madison’s Carbone Cancer Center to compile and submit grants. What she has not done much of is the content writing for grant applications, but that is also the part of the job that made it appealing.
“I enjoy writing, and it would be a new challenge for me. That is what attracted me to the job,” McClenahan said.
From her experience, there needs to be many irons in the fire when it comes to grant writing. There are often rolling deadlines, and many different applications are in the works at the same time, requiring a lot of organization on her part.
McClenahan said she submitted a grant last week about a feasibility study for rural transit and is also working on one for the new Health and Human Services Building, all while keeping tabs on new opportunities.
“I am getting emails forwarded to me almost daily with newsletters containing funding opportunities,” McClenahan said. “There is just a lot of federal money that keeps getting rolled out.”
To reach Dylan Anderson, call 970-871-4247 or email danderson@SteamboatPilot.com.
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