City mulls small grants

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Denton council accepts recommendations for neighborhood program

Residents may soon have another chance at small grants to help their neighborhoods, as Denton city leaders continue to try to revive a 12-year-old program.

The Denton City Council accepted many staff recommendations for the Neighborhood Empowerment Program from the city’s planning staff during a work session Tuesday afternoon. Those recommendations included removing some requirements from the original 2001 ordinance in an effort to allow the city more flexibility to respond to good proposals.

This year’s budget includes $50,000 for grants for neighborhoods. Groups can apply for as little as $100 and as much as $10,000 for projects that improve public safety, beautify a neighborhood, create a master plan for a neighborhood or provide for cultural, educational or recreation programs.

The staff shared a proposed implementation plan that showed how grant applications would be evaluated and administered. Some members of the City Council were concerned after they learned that residents would not be involved in ranking the grant applications — a feature of the original program.

Council member Kevin Roden reminded the council that he and others on the Committee on Citizen Engagement had seen some of the proposed revisions in December. He wondered why the staff was no longer recommending that committee review the proposals.

City Manager George Campbell told Roden and the rest of the council they wanted to minimize the bureaucracy of that process.

“These grants are not very large,” Campbell said. “We want to get the stuff out the door.”

Mayor Mark Burroughs proposed that the amended ordinance include a way for an applicant to appeal a denial to one of the city’s standing commissions or committees, such as the Community Development Committee or the Human Services Advisory Board.

“It could be a backstop,” Burroughs said, adding that he thought it would be rare that the city would need it, since an applicant could try again in as little as two months.

But the backstop could help the staff avoid unintended consequences, he said, “especially a perception that the staff doesn’t like a neighborhood.”

The planning staff tentatively scheduled its first grant-writers workshop later this month, but Katia Boykin told the council that, given the work still to be done on the ordinance, that would have to be rescheduled.

A number of neighborhood beautification projects have been funded in the past. Residents around Nette Schultz Park worked to raise money and work with the Parks and Recreation Department to make improvements there, including installing a perimeter sidewalk, a tennis backboard and large trees to shade children’s play equipment from the sun.

The neighborhood program also has $34,000 for its annual summit, to develop small area plans and to run the EngageDenton.com website, according to city documents.

PEGGY HEINKEL-WOLFE can be reached at 940-566-6881. Her e-mail address is pheinkel-wolfe@dentonrc.com .

IN OTHER ACTION

During its meeting Tuesday, the Denton City Council also:

•  Approved an interlocal agreement with Denton County for fire service in certain unincorporated areas; the county will pay $10,000 for the agreement and reimburse an additional $475 per call.

•  Approved an interlocal agreement with Denton County for ambulance service in certain unincorporated areas; the county will pay $74,033 for the agreement and reimburse about $241 per call.

•  Approved an interlocal agreement with the Denton County tax office and the Texas Department of Motor Vehicles to collect municipal fines through motor vehicle registrations; the city will pay about $8,656 for the agreement, which includes about $5,300 in one-time setup costs, in order to collect on about 750 citations per month.


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