Best Practices - Vol. IV

Mayor Karen Hasara

Grants Coordinator

In an era of tight budget resources, successful competition for federal grants can play a critical role in providing enhanced services for city residents. The Springfield Police Department established a Grants Coordinator position to identify and pursue grant awards to advance the department's mission, that is, "to work in partnership with the community to promote open communication, education, cooperation, and fair and equal treatment to improve the quality of life, promote unity, encourage respect, and make Springfield a safe community".

The Grants Coordinator in the Springfield Police Department performs four vital functions relating to federal grants. First, the Coordinator is directly involved in the formulation of the goals and objectives of every section of the Department. This allows the Coordinator to identify needed services or service enhancements that are important, but which may not survive the budget process or which may simply be out of reach in terms of cost. With these areas in mind, the Coordinator is able to begin the search for potential grant opportunities. This search is the second major duty of the position, and is in sharp contrast with the more common practice of seeing a solicitation or request for proposal and attempting to design a program to respond simply because funding is available.

The next step for the Grants Coordinator is the development of the grant application. Application development is greatly facilitated by virtue of the Coordinator's familiarity with all of the goals and objectives of the Department. The Coordinator brings the people who will be affected by the proposed project together, and includes representation from the Department's community partnerships. This grass- roots input provides extremely important information and insures that the solution designed includes the stakeholders and government officials charged with the success of the operation. This process also facilitates a smooth hand-off of the project from the Grants Coordinator as "author" to the project implementors, once funding is approved. The implementation team is able to identify significant tasks that are a prerequisite for acceptance and implementation of the funding, which greatly speeds the actual implementation process once a grant award has been made.

The fourth and final function of the Coordinator is the monitoring and supervision of the grant implementation and reporting process. The Coordinator manages the time line to ensure continuation of grant funding, and makes sure that financial status and grant progress reports are submitted on a timely basis. The Coordinator is familiar with any special conditions attached to grant awards, and is able to advise the grant implementors and the fiscal officers in the structuring of the implementation process, as well as the evolution of the grant program in the field. Experience of the Springfield Police Department shows that the Coordinator is able to effectively interface with federal agency contacts, such as the Department of Justice, the Bureau of Justice Assistance, and the National Institute of Justice, to obtain "between the lines" details relating to the entire grant process from the application stage through the evaluation and closing stage. The ability to develop and maintain a point-of-contact relationship with the federal agencies has been a boon to ensuring compliance with the federal guidelines and in fine tuning the actual implementation of an awarded grant. No plan for implementation survives the actual implementation process intact. The Coordinator is able to obtain timely advice and guidance on unanticipated implementation problems.

Temporary Ice Rinks

Last winter, the Springfield Recreation Department constructed two temporary ice rinks in one of the public parks owned by the City. The location has easy access and is well known to residents. Basketball courts were chosen for the rinks because they are free of obstructions except for the posts at the ends of the courts, and these were covered with bales of hay.

A barrier was built around the outer edges of the courts to contain the water and plastic sheeting was placed over the asphalt. Once temperatures dropped into the teens, Recreation Department employees sprayed the area of asphalt with water. The freezing process took two to three days to achieve a three-inch layer of ice.

The Department maintenance workers are employed year-round; therefore, no additional staff was needed to install the rinks. One member of the maintenance crew was on the premises the first evening the rinks were open and the Community Police Officer in the area made extra stops at the rinks, but no additional staff was necessary for operation of the rinks. Since the cost to construct and maintain the rinks was minimal, there was no charge for their use.

Risk to skaters of drowning was eliminated by using a facility such as this rather than a body of water with an uncertain thickness of ice. A safe environment for public recreation was enjoyed by the many skaters who frequented the rinks after school and during the early evening hours.

Contact: Office of the Mayor, (217) 789-2200

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The United States Conference of Mayors

J. Thomas Cochran, Executive Director
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