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Forest Grove showers money on community projects

As funding for projects increases, so do requests


The Community Enhancement Program (CEP) committee got $100,000 this year to play Santa Claus to 24 different nonprofits and city commissions whose projects ranged from upgrades for community gardens to the addition of a bingo program at the Forest Grove Farmers Market.

The money comes from a waste-dumping fee collected at the city’s B Street Transfer Station by Metro, the Portland-area regional government, which recently raised the fee from 50 cents to $1 per ton.

But even with more funds this year than ever before, committee members found they still didn’t have enough to fully fund every enhancement proposal.

That’s because funding requests rose along with the available money, totaling $138,715 this year. Last year, project applicants requested a total of $87,936 when only $56,604 was available. For 2013-14, requests reached $108,983 though only $58,100 was available.

“You’ll always get more requested than you have available,” said city Finance Director Paul Downey.

Unlike in previous years, however, when some proposed projects didn’t receive  any funding, every project proposed this year got something, though maybe not as much as requested.

“It’s kind of like at Christmas,” said committee member and City Council President Tom Johnston. “You only have so much and that’s what you get, so some years they’re happy and some years they’re not.”

The CEP money is evenly divided between committee members, who get to choose how to allocate their allotment.

Ten proposals requested the maximum $8,000 allowance, but only two came close to achieving that ambitious goal. The big winners of the day: $7,000 allocated for a new dishwasher at the Senior and Community Center, and $7,524 for the Historic Landmarks Board’s (HLB) Renovation Grant Program, which helps maintain registered historic buildings.

Other projects that received significant donations and nearly met funding goals were the Sidewalk Chalk Art Festival, the Forest Grove Community Forestry Commission’s request to plant more trees around the city, landscaping for the Chamber of Commerce property, and the Public Art Commission’s effort to put sculptures and other art in parks and elsewhere around the community.

Fire Chief Michael Kinkade got $2,061 of the $2,500 he requested to add a mural on the fire station’s south side.

In addition to increasing the waste-dumping fees that fund CEP programs, Metro councilors decided to overhaul the whole CEP process, which caused some tension as committee members adjusted to it Monday night.

New eligibility criteria were established for project proposals, and for the first time in Forest Grove CEP history, the co-chair on the CEP committee was the area’s Metro councilor, Kathryn Harrington.

Metro provides the money for enhancement projects, Harrington said, so with the revamp, “part of that new process is for the sitting Metro councilor to participate.”

During the meeting, Harrington questioned whether a program that would provide reusable cloth bags to every home in the city — particularly if councilors decide to ban plastic bags in stores this year — would actually ensure residents used them. She requested the proposal be reviewed before moving forward with it.

Councilor Elena Uhing agreed and removed the dollars she had allocated for the bags. “There needs to be more work on that project in order for me to support it,” she said.

Ultimately, councilors passed the CEP allocations by a 7-1 vote with only Councilor Malynda Wenzl voting nay, based on her sense that the new process had caused misunderstandings that kept councilors from giving more money to some projects.

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