Council hires grant writer for fire dept.
Village council this week continued seeking funding for the fire department through a grant writer despite concerns shared by the village solicitor.
Council unanimously agreed to a grant writing contract with Mickey Smith of Ohio First Responder Grants LLC to apply for a first responders grant through FEMA (Federal Emergency Management Agency).
Council last month authorized Fire Chief Larry Hephner to begin collecting paperwork for the application even without the contract. At that time, council asked Village Solicitor Walter Newton to provide the contract at this week’s meeting.
When presenting legislation to approve the contract, Newton shared some concerns, notably a “hold harmless clause” which he said means the village is liable for any mistakes Smith makes, making the village open to any possible lawsuit. He also said he is concerned that the village can be offered less than the amount needed for the project specified in the grant, and even if council rejects the grant, just being offered the grant will make the village responsible for paying Smith the bonus for an awarded grant.
Fiscal Officer Randy Chismar said that the only way the village will be offered less than the amount sought in the grant is if the village is offered whatever is left in the grant fund, but that a grant is not considered awarded unless the village accepts it. He
also noted that Smith can only apply for funding for items identified by Hephner and included in the contract.
At a meeting last month, Smith advised council to consider one application, with a preference placed on a brush truck, at a cost of $2,500. Council can also attempt three applications, with the second and third at a cost of $1,500 each. Smith made the recommendation based on the department’s run sheets and budget from the past three years.
If council does secure the grant, the village will pay Smith 5 percent.
Hephner said a priority is being placed on the brush truck, which can be used off road because it is lighter than a pumper tank. It costs approximately $150,000 to $185,000. The second and third applications would be for new oxygen tanks and a new Jaws of Life hydraulic rescue tool, which cannot be bundled together.
Smith suggested getting the paperwork started as soon as possible to increase the chance of securing funding.
Councilman Neal Bayless responded to Newton’s concerns, saying that Smith works with departments in four states and helps them obtain grant funding they could never get on their own. He also said he was worried that if Newton continued to change the contract, Smith would no longer be willing to spend the time working with the village.
Newton told Bayless that ultimately the decision is council’s to make, but that his job as solicitor is to warn council about consequences of wording in contracts.
“I wouldn’t be doing my job if I didn’t say something,” Newton said. “Wording is everything in a contract.”