We were pleased to hear Wendell Planning Director David Bergmark’s comment at last weekend’s town board retreat regarding leveraging funds.
Basically, what he said is, over the next year, the town should be looking for opportunities to use its money in concert with money from other sources to allow the town to take on larger, more expensive projects.
Wendell, like most towns, has tried to do that in the past. Most recently, the town applied for, and won, a grant from the Parks and Recreation Trust Fund, that will allow the town to spend $250,000 of its own money along with $250,000 from the grantors. The $500,000 in available funds goes a long way toward allowing the town to take on more ambitious projects. That will be even more important as the town grows.
While the town accepted the PARTF grant and was prepared to pay its share of the cost, Wendell has not always been willing to spend some of its money to leverage other funds. And, frankly, that has hurt the town.
Bergmark’s comment was right on target and it’s particularly helpful that he spoke up as he did since the town’s board includes three newcomers who are still settling into their positions and learning the nuances of local governance.
Most of us see the wisdom in buying a product when it’s half-priced. Grant funds allow towns to do essentially that. Sometimes the grant terms are even more favorable and a town could apply for and win grants to provide an even greater return on investment than a one for one match. Some grants, for instance, are 80/20 matches, meaning the town would get $4 for every $1 it spends.
Of course, the hurdle for any town board to overcome is that notion of spending any money at all. But frankly speaking, that’s not a real option for Wendell any more. Already permits for nearly 100 new homes have been pulled in Wendell Falls alone and, as Town Manager Teresa Piner has pointed out, that is just one of several residential subdivisions that are under development in town. Already 30 of the new homes in Wendell Falls have been occupied. Those families will add to the volume of services required by residents.
The town must continue to be aggressive in seeking out sound financial opportunities to meet those demands. Following Bergmark’s advice would be a wise step in that direction.