Chester County leaders see need for grants coordinator

CHESTER -- Chester County loses thousands of dollars every year because the county doesn't have a staff member to research and apply for grants, leaders said.

The County Council hopes to soon add such a position to its roster when it passes its budget. The final vote is scheduled for Monday.

The reason the county keeps losing or missing grants is because its department heads are busy with other responsibilities and don't have time to apply for and keep track of grants, said County Supervisor Carlisle Roddey.

"We just need to give them a hand," he said. "It's easy (for grants) to slip through your fingers. They'll fall right through the cracks."

Although he can't pinpoint exactly how much money is lost every year, he said the number would be in the thousands.

County leaders say most local governments have a person to research, apply for and monitor grants, including the city of Chester.

Terry Hare, the city's grants administrator, has been on the job for more than a year. For 2006, he said the city was approved for nearly $64,000 in grant money.

Some of that money went toward recycling equipment, softball field upgrades and a walking trail and miniature golf course at Wylie Park.

What many people don't realize about the grant process, Hare said, is that it's twofold: getting approval for the grant and actually collecting the money.

Before he started working at the city, he said, the city would sometimes get a grant, then pay for the project with taxpayer money and never collect the reimbursements, thus footing bills that should have been covered by grants.

Now, he makes sure that doesn't happen.

"That's one of the advantages," he said of employing someone who monitors grants. "To track a grant from cradle to grave."

At Monday's meeting, leaders passed a resolution to create the grants coordinator's job.

"This position will probably pay for itself," Councilman Joe Branham said. "This is something that has probably been needed in Chester County for years."

A grants coordinator researches, applies for and tracks the progress of federal and state grants. By not having such a job, Chester County loses thousands of dollars every year in grant money. If the position is included in this year's budget, it would pay from $23,262 to $32,567 per year, depending on qualifications.