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City staff micro grants could fund solutions

TRIBUNE FILE PHOTO - A $6,000 micro grant could provide city help to volunteers who work in Peninsula Park's Rose Garden.A rubber sidewalk.

A better way to trap and remove restaurant grease.

A plan to enhance the Peninsula Park Rose Garden as a prime spot in the Piedmont neighborhood.

Those are a handful of the 17 city employee micro grants worth $195,700 to be funded next week by Portland’s City Council. The grants will be considered during the Wednesday, March 25, council meeting at City Hall, 1221 S.W. Fourth Ave.

This is the second year of the city’s innovation grants. Last year, city officials established a $1 million fund to pay for staff-suggested projects or recommendations designed to solve problems or improve city services. A four-person panel reviewed 46 proposals submitted in February by 13 bureaus and offices, all at $20,000 or less, and whittled the list to 17 that will be presented to the City Council.

In 2014, the city spent $699,500 for 12 projects.

Among this year’s grants, an $8,000 project would allow Portland’s Bureau of Transportation to use a product made from recycled tire rubber to repair sections of damaged sidewalk. The material — Rubberway — is a flexible material designed to replace concrete sidewalks buckled by tree roots that could become a hazard.

Last year, the city required about 1,900 property owners to repair hazardous sidewalks. The grant would fund a pilot project that could be monitored for five years to see if it holds up.

Bureau of Environmental Services staff is asking for $15,000 to provide grease trap cleaning coupons for businesses — mostly restaurants and food service companies — that need the service. City inspectors would distribute the coupons to businesses trying to keep their grease traps clean.

The city has about 130 businesses that hire pump services to clean their grease traps. The coupons would be good for one free cleaning. Without the cleaning, grease can flow into the city’s sanitary sewer system and cause problems in pipes.

Parks and Recreation staff is seeking $6,000 to help develop a strategic plan with the Friends of Peninsula Park Rose Garden for the park’s garden. The goal is to increase volunteer help to maintain and improve the garden as a landmark in the Piedmont neighborhood.

Other projects to be funded:

• $14,000 to review the city’s community garden policy.

• $11,100 to install monitoring equipment at six of 10 city park water feature splash pads.

• $5,000 to help the Portland Housing Bureau collect citywide housing data.

• $10,000 to purchase an electric utility cart for Parks and Recreation.

• $15,000 to create a Bureau of Planning and Sustainability anti-litter campaign toolkit.