US Mayor Article

Community Pride Grants Respond to Reno's Neighborhood Needs

July 17, 2000

When Assistant Civil Engineer Skip Leedy knocked on long-time Reno resident Virginia Scheuller's door to tell her she would be getting new sidewalks, her incredulous response was, "How much is this going to cost me?"

"Imagine my surprise," said Scheuller, "when he said 'nothing.'"

Scheuller learned that she would be the beneficiary of a neighborhood improvement project valued at about $2,500, and that the funding would be provided through a Community Pride Grants program created by Reno's City Council to support the City's seven volunteer Neighborhood Advisory Boards (NABs).

Since 1998, when the program was established, these grants have helped to build and reshape neighborhoods, often funding projects that may have been on the City's Capital Improvement Project "back burner" list for years. "The City Council created the Neighborhood Advisory Boards so that neighborhoods could have a strong voice," explains Mayor Jeff Griffin. "These are active, involved citizens with their fingers on the pulse of the community. The grants program is one more avenue for citizen involvement."

According to Finance Director Lisa Sadow, putting money aside for the NABs had been discussed for some time, and the Council had established that building a neighborhood services program and the NABs were priorities. The Community Pride Grants are funded out of the City's General Fund, and in 1998, the first year money was available, $350,000 was set aside to be distributed equally among the seven NABs by City Manager Charles McNeely. Criteria for use of the funds were simple: Projects had to focus on one-time versus ongoing costs and could include such efforts as special events, beautification projects and advertising. The funds also could be used for needed projects that weren't covered in the budgets of outside agencies, such as school playground improvements.

In the West University area where Virginia Scheuller lives, the NAB has used its Community Pride Grant funds to help revise and implement a neighborhood plan, create pocket parks, make bicycle and pedestrian path improvements, conduct neighborhood clean-ups and, of course, make sidewalk improvements.

In Reno's Central area, the NAB conducted a survey in an often-overlooked neighborhood that was showing signs of blight. Four members of the nine-member board formed a Neighborhood Contact Team with representatives of the City's Police, Code Enforcement, Animal Services and Neighborhood Services Departments, the Senior Auxiliary Volunteer Effort (SAVE), and Nevada Hispanic Services' Hispanic Youth Image program.

With the goal of determining the residents' primary concerns and issues, and armed with a questionnaire designed to do this, the Team started knocking on doors. "I felt we as a board needed to reach out to the public," said Central NAB member Bonnie Schultz. "They don't know we're here and they most likely don't realize that, if there is a problem or concern, they can come to our monthly meetings. With Community Pride Grants, we can tackle some of their issues."

Funds from Central's fiscal year 1999-2000 grant were used to produce survey results in English and Spanish and mail them to everyone in the neighborhood surveyed. The NAB's survey report detailed residents' top concerns along with the actions taken by the City in response. Because the survey indicated that inadequate street lighting contributed to nighttime safety problems, the NAB allocated nearly $6,000 to help improve the lighting situation. Central NAB chair Linda Van Citters says they are planning to do more neighborhood surveys to determine how to make best use of their funds.

Additional information on Reno's Community Pride Grants is available from Gail Connors at (775) 326-6315.

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