Rooney confident in Monroe’s ability to obtain grant funding

Monroe Town Hall on a sunny afternoon. Photo by John Babina

MONROE, CT — Economic and Community Development Director William Holsworth successfully applied for over $1 million worth of grants over the past year for a wide range of projects, from $500,000 to expand the animal shelter to $150,000 to renovate the basketball courts at Wolfe Park.

To keep that momentum going, this year’s municipal budget proposal includes a new special projects coordinator, a part-time position whose responsibilities include grant writing.

During the budget process, some Town Council members suggested hiring a full-time grant writer or hiring grant writers on retainer to find even more opportunities the town may be unaware of.

While happy with the job Holsworth is doing, First Selectman Terry Rooney decided to research the issue.

“I want to make sure that we’re doing everything the best we possibly can and if there’s a request, we research the data and make sure we’re getting every grant we can obtain,” Rooney said during an interview in his office Wednesday.

Human Resources Director Craig Hirsch reached out to the Connecticut Conference of Municipalities (CCM) to find what 12 comparable towns are doing and Rooney shared the information at Monday’s Town Council meeting.

“With Bill Holsworth’s work and the CCM information, I’m convinced Monroe is doing as good or better than other municipalities its size,” Rooney said.

Rooney also pointed out is how it is more challenging for fiscally well run towns, such as Monroe, to obtain some grants.

The research

Hirsch said CCM has a salary survey of towns, but there were so few grant writers that the position was not included, so he had to do a manual search for that information.

Department heads handle the grant writing in seven towns: Waterford, Bethel, East Lyme, Madison, Plainville, Brookfield and Ellington.

In Wilton, each department handles its own grant writing. However, the coordinator of communication and community relations identifies potential grants and forwards the information to department heads to decide on. It is a part-time position, $54.85 an hour, 25 hours a week.

In Avon, the assistant town manager (salary range of $90,150 to $126,236) assists with grants as a secondary responsibility, but each department head handles their own grant writing.

In Southbury the finance and human resources administrator ($104,500 a year) and the project administrator ($70,000) handle grant writing. Total grant funds awarded to the town in 2023 was $276,412, according to Rooney.

Stonington hired a grant writer at the end of 2023. The salary range for the position is $65,564 to $87,860 and the current salary is $70,000. The writer is in the process of securing and working through grants provided prior to the hire, Rooney said.

In Killingly, the economic development director ($51.96 an hour, 35 hours a week) handles the majority of the grant writing.

Rooney said CCM offers grant writer assistance consisting of:

  • Research and writing of applications
  • Expert knowledge on the availability of pertinent grants
  • A grant writer on retainer at no charge, and charges $137.50 an hour for grant writing and research by project, with the hours negotiated prior to starting
  • Administration, close out and audit of grants is an additional cost

Rooney said this would allow the town to pursue larger, more complex applications and the town could brainstorm grant opportunities for particular projects.

He noted how some competitive grants may conflict with other towns the grant writer works for.

Rooney looked into the issue in response to discussions during the budget workshops, when Town Councilwoman Cathy Kohut praised the work of Holsworth, but also said she believes a full time grant writer would have the time to do the research to find even more opportunities for grants.

Councilman Jason Maur expressed his support to hire grant writers on retainer, who would only be paid for the grants they bring in.

Asked what he thought of the information the first selectman provided at this week’s Town Council meeting, Maur said:

The information provided in the Selectman’s Update was extremely helpful and only goes to further prove our need for more dedication to grant writing. We should be exploring the use of outside grant writers who only get paid if they bring in new grants.

Further, we need to be open to considering the pursuit of larger grants, even when they require some cost sharing. There are some great federal energy and infrastructure grants that could save the town a significant amount of money.

We do not need to take up every opportunity for cost sharing grants or grants written by outside parties in exchange for a percentage of the grant, but we should certainly not be eliminating these great opportunities to both better our town and decrease our tax burden from contention entirely.

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