Leveraging Local Dollars as a way of Funding Projects, Part 2

Last month I went over how important it is not to be an undiscovered island in a sea of projects offered to funding sources. I discussed how important it is to put a “face” on the project. Local leaders need to step to the forefront to discuss their project desires with the agencies regulating the activity. This ensures that the project is not coming from left field somewhere, but as part of an announced strategy to rectify whatever problem is at hand.

Another important element is to recognize that others in the community, and I use that term in a wide sense, may have similar goals to you. I will go back to my current project in Castle Shannon. There is an issue concerning our stream… something small running through the town called Saw Mill Run. There was a FEMA flood map update, which put 147 properties in the flood plain after, since the inception of the town, there was no flood plain designation. Too much loss of assessed value was created by this designation, and we needed to take action.

As we looked at the stream to create an alternate flow model, we became aware that the stream was less than inviting to aquatic life. There was a problem with phosphorus in the stream, and it stifled all the fishes and turtles and whatever other kind of animals existed there. Probably stifled the proliferation of the salamanders too, and they are one of my favorites. I have not identified that presence yet in the Pennsylvania Natural Diversity Inventory (PNDI), but saving salamanders is always high on my list. When other kids were capturing pollywogs from the pond, I was a salamander guy. I felt it was a higher calling than to capture pollywogs.

Low and behold we found there were others interested in the stream, and that was the Pittsburgh Sewer and Water Authority (PSWA) and the Allegheny County Sanitary Authority (ALCOSAN). So they have a meeting about their problem, and my guys in Castle Shannon present our project. Now remember we are there for the flood project but the work that we will do, the acquisition, demolition and rechanneling of the stream, will have an effect on the biodiversity issue. 

So as I am presenting that day, I thought back to my time in Downingtown. In Downingtown one time I wanted to add to the parking in the downtown and ended up having the project reach its logical conclusion by acquiring and knocking down the O’Brien Machinery Company. The property was a super fund site, and it was the first site ever to go from Superfund to be remediated to a statewide health standard. 

In Downingtown, I had to lift out a three-acre slab that was contaminated with PCB’s and send it to a landfill in Detroit.  But because the property was in the floodplain I had to redraw the floodplain map when I refilled the property with clean fill. The slab was six feet deep. 

The interesting thing, and what made me think about that project, is that the O’Brien Machinery slab extended over the stream and when we removed it we found that all of the storm water was infiltrating the sanitary system because the system was located in the creek. It was like déjà vu…all over again. So the mission was familiar.

I now was able to solve more than one problem at a time, if I wanted to do the right thing. So I had a common interest, and it is good to have a common interest with someone that wants to solve a problem related to your problem. It also creates the potential for leveraging dollars.  You put up some dollars and they put up some dollars and you use those dollars to leverage a grant. This way you will be splitting your portion in a number of ways…in this case three ways. 

For example, if I look to get a million dollars in a grant, and say my match is three hundred thousand, or 30 percent of the costs, I am now splitting that three ways so instead of paying three hundred thousand I pay one hundred thousand to spend a million three hundred thousand to save the salamanders. Maybe it is penance for me because of all those salamanders that I let die in a shoebox with a slice of lettuce… but maybe not… Maybe it is the right thing to do, and maybe I have something in common with a sewer agency and that is also trying to do the right thing.

I am doing the stream modeling now, and I am not sure what I will get, if anything, from the sewer authorities, but I am ready to move to the next step.  So I theoretically would move forward with three pots of money that I would combine and try to get federal and state funds. What is important is that the money I may potentially get from the sewer authorities is considered “local money” and that is gold, because it is a universal match.

There are some grants that make you put up the local money as part of the scenario and do not want to see federal money as a match, and just use it as a front end project cost write-down and you still have to come up with the local money to get the grant.

I know this article seems complicated and pretty technical, but useful if you want to get something done, and not just complain that nothing ever happens. Remember that the critical element for change is you, and your participation in projects that you want to complete.

Barry Cassidy can be reached at barrycassidy@comcast.net.