Wendell commissioners recently approved several requests from the staff to create plans for new technology and grants to improve recreational resources. The hard decisions will come when commissioners are actually asked to pay for the implementation of those plans and grants.
Elected leaders often decry the creation of plans and reports that line the shelves of town staffers, doing little more than collecting dust. It’s a valid complaint and one we hope Wendell commissioners will avoid when they receive reports back on the best way to install a wireless system in downtown and construct a fiber network that would serve town facilities initially and could, perhaps, serve residents and businesses down the road.
The challenge for commissioners is that both those projects will cost the town a pretty penny. The town of Holly Springs recently dropped $1.5 million to establish a fiber system to serve that town’s facilities.
Wendell leaders have been aware for some time of the technology infrastructure shortcomings the town faces. It impacts not only the government’s operations, but the opportunities available to taxpayers as well. Those shortcomings – and commissioners’ awareness of the problem is what prompted the studies they recently commissioned. But to finish the job, commissioners will need to be committed to spending the larger sums of money it will take to implement the recommendations that will follow.
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The same applies for grants the town has agreed to pursue. Most grants these days require the recipients to put up some of their own money to leverage the grant funds they received. In fact, the town of Wendell’s only grant program – the facade grant – requires a dollar for dollar match itself. In the past, the town has won grants only to turn them down because it didn’t want to pay the matching funds. It should be the town’s policy that, when it applies for a grant, that it is committed to meeting the match. To do any less is a waste of the staff’s time in preparing the application.
Earlier this month, the town applied for a Parks and Recreation Trust Fund grant, which does require a local match. It remains to be seen if the town will be included in this year’s awards, but the town’s reputation will, frankly, be tarnished if it is awarded the grant, then rejects the offer.
Make no mistake, we are excited about commissioners willingness to invest in the town. The expenditures approved by commissioners earlier this month are a sign of hope. That hope, though, will only be realized when the town begins spending money to make turn those plans into reality.