Grants are a critical part of a City’s financial strategy, helping to fund projects ranging from sidewalks to floodgates 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 fulfill one of the recommendations of our 2035 Comprehensive Plan: to use external grant funding to help make the community’s vision a reality. As grants administrator, I help to coordinate and execute every stage of the grant process, from researching opportunities to applying for funds to ensuring that we meet all of the conditions of the grant once funding is received.
Our new strategy recently paid off when we received a $621,000 Texas Parks and Wildlife Department matching grant 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 the repairs much more expensive than originally thought. Thanks to the TPWD grant, we can start working on the duck pond this year and still have funds left over for other projects.
Sometimes, research and collaboration can lead to opportunities outside of grants. For example, the upcoming Texas Department of Transportation beautification project on the Loop started with a conversation between Mayor Rawley McCoy and TxDOT Yoakum District Engineer Paul Reitz about cleaning up Victoria’s overpasses. Corridor improvements were important to the mayor because he recognized that entryways play an important role in economic development.
Through this conversation, the mayor learned that TxDOT provides funding for local beautification projects on state highways. I started researching TxDOT’s Green Ribbon Program with help from other City leaders. Eventually I learned that it was not a grant program at all but an opportunity to partner with TxDOT on an improvement project.
Although this partnership was different from the projects I normally handle, I was able to coordinate with state officials and City leadership to make sure the resulting design would be a good fit for our community. As the mayor said in his last State of the City address, sometimes reaching out and asking questions are all it takes to get something done, and I’m glad that this project will be part of his legacy as mayor.
The grant process can also create opportunities to work together with our community partners. For example, the City worked with Victoria ISD to identify areas where sidewalks could be added to help students walk safely to and from school. Those 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 consider community recommendations, funding availability, greatest return on investment and many other factors. Although the current project is focused on O’Connor and Stroman, we’ve identified many other campuses that would benefit from nearby sidewalks, and we hope to pursue more funding for these areas.
Community involvement is a key part of the grants project because state and federal officials like to know that the projects they’re funding will be well received by their communities. By getting involved in our master plans and attending public meetings, you can have a say in which projects we pursue, and you can show officials that we’re committed to improving our city.