By CRAIG MURPHY
Of the Keizertimes
Early on, one key grant was the target for the Big Toy play structure project at Keizer Rapids Park.
On Thursday, city leaders learned their $150,000 application to the Oregon Parks and Recreation Department’s Local Government Grant program was denied.
Nate Brown, the director of Community Development for Keizer who submitted the application and presented to OPRD officials last week, confirmed the project was denied.
“We were denied funding,” Brown said Thursday morning. “We were ranked No. 12 out of 36 applications, with only the top nine getting funding. We had a good showing. There were lots of qualities that gave us points.”
Brown acknowledged he had concerns following his presentation.
“It was hard for me to read them,” he said of OPRD officials. “I was trying to read their body language. I read the body language and tone as being pretty critical. I was concerned. But you always get stressed when you make these presentations. It’s always stressful to make a sales pitch.”
Marlene Quinn, the Keizer City Councilor who has been chairing the project, called it a “little maddening” to not get the funding, but pointed out other options are available.
“They didn’t have as much money to give this year,” Quinn said Thursday. “We’re going to try for more grants. We’ve been getting sponsorships. We’re going to be OK.”
Quinn noted councilors approved next year’s budget using System Development Charges (SDC) funds as a fallback for the Big Toy.
“We put in the budget the $150,000 in SDC money in case we didn’t get the grant,” Quinn said. “We knew it wasn’t a done deal.”
That uncertainty played a large role in the project being delayed from this September to next June.
Susan Gahlsdorf, Finance director for Keizer, said the city budgeted the cost of the Big Toy as $450,000 with a bulk of that potentially coming from the two SDC funds.
“We anticipate having about $300,000 in SDC funds available next year for this project; $160,000 is old SDC funds,” Gahlsdorf said. “The ‘old’ funds are an allowable use of the old money. The $140,000 of the ‘new’ funds are expected to be an allowable use of the new money because we will have met the ‘match’ requirements. The $150,000 expected from the grant that we have now learned we are not receiving will have to be raised through fundraising.”
Brown said the Local Government Grant program rotates every other year between large and small projects. The amount requested qualified for large project, thus couldn’t be applied for again until two years from now.