SHERIDAN — Members of the Sheridan Village Council are in the process of putting together a “wish list” of projects for the village. Some items on the list — such as work on the water tower and street improvements — are more pressing than others, however, they all share one thing in common: They cost money.
Finding those funds in a budget already stretched to the breaking point isn’t easy for any community, and Sheridan is no exception. The problem is especially acute when it comes to big ticket items such as infrastructure repair like sewer and waters lines, curb, gutter and road repair.
At last Tuesday’s meeting, council members discussed the possibility of hiring an expert to go after grants to help fund these sorts of projects. The idea was first proposed by Village Superintendent Doug Lane.
“In order to get a lot of these projects done, we’re going to have to get online with another village manager and get him to help us out,” Lane said, “or hire someone and pay them hourly to throw in two or three grants a year for us.”
Lane brought up the possibility of contacting someone like James Freed, the city manager of Stanton and village manager of Lakeview, who has a better-than-average batting average when it comes to obtaining state and federal grant monies for the communities he serves.
“James has written grants for Stanton and Lakeview and gotten them this year,” Lane added. “We don’t need to hire (a manager) on full-time, but we need someone to come in and look at the issues we have and then run with them.”
Village President Susan Wyckoff-McFarland said she has a few options available to her regarding places to obtain this sort of help or advice. She stressed, however, that any real action along these lines would require far more research and discussion.
“We’re just in the talking stage,” she said. “As far as I’m concerned, I’m just going to make a couple phone calls to see what’s available out there.”
Wyckoff-McFarland added she wouldn’t want to send the wrong message and “get anyone’s hopes up” in terms of an actual hire.
“I’m just going to call somebody who knows a little bit about the grant writing process and things like that,” she said. “But as far as actually hiring anyone, it’s way to early to talk about that.”
According to Freed, even if Sheridan did hire someone to write grant proposals, there’s no guarantee money would be forthcoming.
“Grant writing is a lot like playing the lottery,” Freed said. “You have to write a lot of grants. I’ve only gotten about one in five that I’ve applied for and that’s only because I’ve been pretty strategic about which grants I go after.
“People think there’s money available out there and they can get a grant for anything, but that’s just not true,” he said. “Often, a grant is for a specific topic, like infrastructure or parks or downtown development. The grant has to be a part of a larger plan; sometimes it fits, sometimes it doesn’t. They are very project specific.”
Freed said that in the past few years, he has managed to secure grants and low-interest loans for the communities of Lakeview and Stanton totaling about $3.5 million.
Grant writing, says Freed, is not “rocket science,” however, it does take some familiarity with both the process and the types of grants available at any specific time.
The possibility of hiring someone on in Sheridan that arguably could produce funding for the village’s projects would have to first start with more discussion at the council level before securing a longterm solution, according to Lane.