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More money coming to community projects

Other changes to program are being considered by Forest Grove councilors

Funds available for community enhancement projects in Forest Grove will nearly double this year thanks to higher fees collected by Metro, the regional government, from the Forest Grove Transfer Station.

Grant funding is estimated to jump from $56,604 in last year’s funding cycle to as much as $107,520 in the 2015-16 cycle.

In Forest Grove, that’s great news for a program that consistently gets requests for about twice as much money as city councilors are able to grant.

Past projects have touched on everything from hanging flower baskets to public benches to equipment for youth sports to community gardens to art programs to historic renovations to early-childhood education to healthy meals for homebound seniors to graffiti cleanup to tourism promotion to help for low-income people in crisis to a solar-powered trash compactor ... and more.

The Forest Grove City Council began considering revisions to the Community Enhancement Program grant process during a work session Monday night.

Currently, the “committee” which decides how to allocate community-enhancement funds includes only council members. But when Metro officials decided to double their collection of community-enhancement funds (by doubling the waste-disposal fee from 50 cents to one dollar per ton), they also required participating cities to add the local Metro councilor to the committee that doles out the funding.

For Forest Grove, that’s Metro Councilor Kathryn Harrington, who will co-chair the committee.

“The process has been very good to date, so we’ll build upon what’s been working,” said Harrington, who attended the session. She will have voting rights and will be able to allocate money for projects as councilors currently do.

Beyond that change, Councilor Elena Uhing expressed a desire to make the process less “wishy-washy” and suggested adding a point system to help evaluate each request. Points could be taken away from groups that miss certain requirements, she said. “We have projects that sometimes do not submit their packages on time. We’ve got projects where they’ve missed the presentation.”

A project must receive approval from at least four councilors.

Currently, no more than $5,000 in enhancement funds can be allocated per project, but at least one councilor expressed support for increasing that limit to as much as $10,000.

Changes to the current process will come before the council March 16 for final approval, said Bev Maughan, executive assistant.

Applications can come from neighborhood associations, charitable organizations, schools, local governments and their advisory committees, departments and special districts, but the projects must be within Forest Grove’s urban-growth boundary.

Community Enhancement Program grant applications are being accepted through March 29. Councilors will decide on funding this spring and actual funds will be awarded July 1. For information on how to apply, go to forestgrove-or.gov and type Community Enhancement Program in the search box. Or visit City Hall, 1924 Council St., or call 503-992-3234.


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