How Holladay city mastered the art of the grant applicationMar 08, 2021 10:49AM ● By Zak Sonntag
Holladay uses aid to maintain operations and help residents. (Photo by Blogging Guide on Unsplash)
By Zak Sonntag | [email protected]
The City of Holladay’s grant program has achieved an impressive 71% success rate in grant applications, winning approval for 47 separate grants over the last nine years, putting it well above the average rate of similar grant programs, according to a report from the City Manager’s office.
By choosing applications wisely and cannily negotiating the bureaucratic layers of the different grant processes, the City has obtained $24.5 million in funding from outside money pots originating in county, state and federal programs.
The money has been used to shore up local infrastructure and enhance public spaces that the City alone could otherwise not afford. In 2011, the City hired a grant consultant and assembled a team consisting of members from a variety of city departments, who’ve put their heads together to pick the most plausible projects with the lowest municipal outlay.
The City has been able to multiply the power of grants and limit its own out-of-pocket expense by leveraging different grants against each other, using county funds to match federal funds, for instance. One example is the Holladay City Park, which the grant team funded by drawing on financial resources of 12 separate entities, using the weight of separate contributors to increase the match power of grant process and ultimately cover 85% of the total park expense.
“I come to the park often and bring my younger siblings to use the playground. I also come with my friends to play football because the field is wide and open. I think this is a great all-around park,” said Stephen Flitton, a Holladay resident who enjoys the convenience of a park so centrally located in the city.
“I prefer it to Olympus Hills Park, because they don’t have as much to offer. And it’s a lot closer than Sugar House Park. So we’re really happy with it.”
Holladay’s grant team has devoted most of its energy toward transportation grants, which so far have the highest likelihood of acceptance and require the least out-of-pocket contribution from the City. For instance, the grant team secured $4.7 million for the newly begun road renovation project on 3900 South, where city residents complained for years about potholes and poor conditions.
For 3900 South, “We were able to obtain a federal transportation grant, and then a county grant, and they’re basically matching each other, so we don’t have any cash outlay,” said Holly Smith with the City Manager’s office.
This clever administration has allowed the City to increase the quality of life for community with minimal overhead. Other recent grant projects include Knudsen Park; a “Safe Routes to School” program on 2000 East near Crestview Elementary School, adding crosswalks and sidewalks to improve student safety; an electric car charging station in the Village; an Arts Council initiative creating a gallery space in the City Hall building to be used as an event space; and intersection and safety improvements at two separate locations on 6200 South.
The grant process has some challenges, however, and often that means making city projects fit into the parameters of the outside grant programs. The application processes are highly competitive and require a lot of staff resources. Therefore, with federal transportation grants, the team will not pursue projects that are not at least a few hundred thousand dollars because the process is so time consuming.
“In a perfect world, we could just say what we need and find money for it. But we’re often having to tweak things to fit within the requirements and controls,” said Smith, who explained that grants will remain an important source of money for the City into the future, but emphasized they can only do so much, and the needs of the City far exceed what’s available in outside grant funds.
“And we have a lot of capital needs that simply don’t qualify for grants,” Smith said. “The pots of money available in the grant programs out there pale in comparison to our actual needs.”