By Andreas Arnold
Applying for grants has become a way for organizations with limited funds to complete projects that would not otherwise be attainable. Both the villages of McBride and Valemount submit applications for grants as often as an applicable one crosses the right desk. Tracey Dennis, grant writer and Administrative Coordinator for the Village of Valemount, Karen Dube, Economic Development Officer for McBride and McBride CAO Chris Tupy provided some background on the grant procedure and how each community benefits from the funding.
There are two kinds of municipal grants, unconditional and conditional/competitive. Unconditional grants have only a few restrictions on how the money can be used. A conditional or competitive grant brings in applications from several municipalities for limited funds to be used on specific projects. Conditional grants require cost sharing on behalf of the municipality, anywhere from a 50/50 to a 90/10 cost sharing split. Very rarely will a grant provide 100% funding. The village is responsible to cover ineligible costs and cost overruns.
Before a grant application can be submitted, the scope of work has to be very carefully considered. Many grants have a very specific set of parameters.This means the money can only be spent on the approved project and, for example, the construction plans that were submitted. If the contractor comes up against an issue and needs to change the type of materials, vary in the plan, or extend the deadline, that request has to be taken back to the funder for approval before work continues.
Northern Development Initiative Trust and Columbia Basin Trust as well as federal organizations that offer grants are funded through accounts that are carefully invested, generating their own yearly income.
“There is one annual Provincial “Small Community Grant” that is unconditional for municipalities to assist them in providing basic services,” said Dennis.
In 2022, the grant was for $348,000. Each year it is available to municipalities of up to 19,000 people.
“Because this grant is unconditional, the Village (of Valemount) uses it to assist taxpayers with the costs of municipal operations such as staffing, bylaw/ building enforcement, road/ park maintenance, municipal building/ equipment maintenance and emergency planning,” she said. Dube reported that in 2022 the village was budgeted to receive $420,000.
“We (McBride) also received an additional one-time bonus for 2022 of $112,000, for a total of $532,000 for the Small Communities Grant,” she said.
A few of the recent large scale projects that were completed by the Village of Valemount because of grant funding are the restoration of Swift Creek, the public washrooms at Centennial Park, accessible doors for the courthouse and community services building, the installation of the CN crossing arms, as well as the completion of several plans for future projects and others.
Some projects that will hopefully be completed in 2023 for the Village of Valemount are the installation of a generator at the community hall, replacement of the entrance sign on 5th ave, and sealing cracks on main street as well as at the airport. The lift station on 17th Ave will be decommissioned and a new east area lift station put into service.
Dennis says there are several grants pending as well. If these applications are successful, the village will see money put to upgrade the airport fuel tank, install rooftop sprinklers for critical infrastructure and municipal owned buildings, a geothermal project and an internship program, to name a few.
The Village of McBride received grant funding for several projects in 2022. Some of these projects were completed and the work on others continues into 2023. A few examples of funding in action are, the revitalization of the Bill Clark Memorial Park and ball diamond, Main Street lighting, community emergency preparedness and a sanitary sewer assessment project.
McBride receives ongoing funding from Northern Development Initiative Trust for economic development capacity building, grant writing support, and business façade improvements.
There are still application approvals pending for a long list of upcoming projects. These include train station revitalization, runway and airside rehabilitation and a drinking water filtration system.
The Village of Valemount frequently applies for grants from Northern Development Initiative Trust and Columbia Basin Trust. Grants from the Government of Canada cover some costs for Canada Day celebrations, wages for Visitor Information Counsellors, and large infrastructure. Green initiative grant money is available from both federal and provincial grants. The wood stove exchange program, air quality management, airport upgrades, Destinations BC, and infrastructure planning grants are offered by the Province. Funding from the Union of BC Municipalities can be put towards federal gas tax, emergency planning and operations, and large infrastructure planning and projects.
“Grants do make up more than half of the Village’s municipal budget,” said Dennis. “Without grants, the Village would not be able to maintain the levels of service that our community enjoys and expects.”
Often, prior to a grant application being submitted, there are feasibility studies that need to be in place. The completed study information can be part of the requirements for a completed application. These studies are an assessment of the practicality of a proposed plan or method. Once completed, they can be used at any time, providing the information is still relevant to a proposed project.
“Grants are critical funding mechanisms for municipalities in order to maintain service levels,” said CAO Tupy. “Oftentimes, it can be a short turnaround to submit an application once a new intake is announced, so that’s when the herculean effort on staff’s part begins to put forward the best possible submission. Thankfully, we have been very successful and hope that this continues into the future.”
Grants are not only available to municipalities. There are also grants available for smaller or nonprofit organizations. Although these grants are not as large as the ones that the village can receive, they too allow groups to reach beyond what they alone can accomplish to create services for their community.