COVINGTON — After receiving only one qualified application for a grant writer position, the Newton County Board of Commissioners decided to review Palmetto Grant Consulting’s scope of services at Tuesday’s meeting.
But not everyone agreed to move forward with the process. Commissioner John Douglas voted against taking the next step to hire a grant writer because he said it’s a job that could be done in-house.
“I think this is … not extravagant, but there’s a better use for the $50,000 that we’ve budgeted,” Douglas said at the Tuesday meeting.
County Manager John Middleton said the county advertised the contract position and received three responses, but only Palmetto Grant Consulting was qualified.
The Suwanee-based company has a background in federal and state grant funding, private, community and corporate foundation proposal writing, and networks for funder relations.
Commissioner Lanier Sims said with the state of the county’s budget there needs to be an active search to find extra funds. He noted the Sheriff’s Office grant writer has helped supplement the shortfall in funding.
“This is one of the few things I believe we can do now and have a positive return on investment,” Sims said. “The county staff is stretched really thin right now and to throw something else on their plate I think diminishes that return on investment. I believe that hiring a firm or someone that does this day in and day out, that keeps up with the changes and continues to educate themselves in the field, and has the resources and experience is what we need.”
Susan Bacon, owner and president of Palmetto Grant Consulting, has a diverse background in reviewing grants for physical activity campaigns and community-based coalitions at the state and local levels; developing educational information on air quality issues; and providing consultation to staff at health departments, schools, churches and worksites.
For the scope of services provided it would cost Newton County $3,700 per month. The services include developing and writing grant proposals; researching funders and building relationships with private and public funders; communicating with funders through “thank you” notes; providing a grant liaison for staff and the Board of Commissioners.
“The vote now allows us to sit with and have a detailed conversation with a professional grant writer team, Palmetto Grant Consulting. As this model and function is fairly new to me, I feel we should at least listen to what they can offer the county,” Commissioner Levie Maddox said. “Especially with a focus on what funding opportunities exist today.”
Maddox said departments within the county have used grant programs successfully and heavily rely on them.
“Maybe there’s a chance to expand those grants and have a positive impact on our community. This is a contract hire situation; therefore, if anticipated results are not delivered, we can make an adjustment quickly,” Maddox said. “I also emphasize that the dollar value of the grants typically far outweighs the upfront expenses.”
Lanier said the next step is sitting down with the firm to take a closer look at the services provided and return for a vote to decide if that’s the company to hire.