If George Bostic's Microsoft Outlook contacts folder were a Rolodex, it would be a sorry sight—hundreds of dog-eared business cards stuffed into a tiny plastic holder three sizes too small. Fortunately, it's all at his fingertips with names and numbers and e-mail addresses he has collected during his 20-year tenure in the public works sector.
Although approaching retirement, the public works director of tiny Shady Cove, Ore., still relies on those contacts. In 1994—one year after joining the town's staff as its only full-time public works employee—he solicited the opinions of more than half a dozen other public works managers throughout the region to get advice on how to finance a $6 million waste-water treatment plant upgrade.
Bostic got lucky. After hearing about similar funding dilemmas in nearby cities, he learned about a “one-stop” meeting at the state capital at which three state funding agencies would be represented. All he had to do was show up, present the plan, and ask what the agencies had to offer.
“I asked them, ‘How much are we going to have to increase our sewer rates to pay for this?'” he says. “We were behind the eight ball. The plant and system were failing. They were built in the 1980s with little inspection.” He successfully lobbied for $2 million in grants for the project, which took nearly a dozen years to complete.
His department received a $750,000 block grant from the Oregon Economic Community Development Department (OECDD), which was matched by the city with in-kind services in the form of labor and equipment from public works staff as well as administrative oversight by Bostic. The department also received a $960,000 loan/grant combination from another OECDD funding source, the Water/Wastewater Program; a $980,000 loan from the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality; and a $2.36 million loan and $1 million grant from the USDA for waste-water projects.
Unfortunately, funding doesn't come so easily for Arnie Grammon.
The weed supervisor for Oregon's Baker County, located near the Idaho border, is a self-taught grant writer out of necessity.
Without a dedicated grant writer on staff, he spends about 40% of his time on the job researching and writing grant proposals. “It's your only option if you're going to stay afloat,” says Grammon, who admits that going solo throughout the grant process can be overwhelming.
Still, he successfully lobbied for $220,000 last year from a host of grantors, including the U.S. Department of the Interior's Bureau of Land Management, Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife and the Oregon Department of Agriculture. He spent most of it on treating invasive weeds with herbicides and reseeding, and the rest (about $30,000) on surveying noxious weeds in the mountainous Hell's Canyon area of the Snake River and adding that information to the county's existing geodatabase.
Bostic and Grammon prove that even the leanest departments can tap into grant money if they know where to look and who to talk to.