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Grant Writer Selected For TDHCA Grant Application To Help Fund New Larger Senior Citizens Center Building

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The delayed start of construction of the new senior citizens center building could in the long run end up helping the city in more ways than one – as the wait meant the city is able to apply for grant which would not only help keep up with the rising costs of materials but allow the design to be expanded.

The project, along with renovations at Pacific Park, were approved by voters in 2019. The city sought bonds which will be paid back over the next 20 years using Economic Development funding. While the city was able to get the new Grays Building built before costs of materials increased too significantly, the same could not be said for the planned senior citizens building has been delayed several months.

Senior Citizens Center sign

“We have a million and a half budgeted to build the senior citizens center and we’ve had the difficulty getting the final work product from the architect. We told the architect that we wanted to base it off of a pre-engineered metal frame it wasn’t designed that way, so we sent it back and said we’re not going to build a wooden building because this will be much less expensive if we build the pre-engineered metal frame route,” City Manager Marc Maxwell explained to the Sulphur Springs City Council during the regular December board meeting. “So they did it, and precisely then, the price of steel went through the roof. So the rescue comes the Texas Department of Housing and Community Affairs Community Resiliency Program.”

Applicants may request between $500,000 and $5 million in funding to assist with costs of projects. Senior citizens centers are specifically noted as one of the type of projects eligible for funding.

“We want to apply for this but TDA, Texas Department of Housing and Community Affairs, they do not want to deal with cities directly. They require that we hire a firm that does grant writing and more importantly grant administration if we are receive the grant,” Maxwell noted.

To select a grant writer/administrator, the city sent out four request to firms the staff new were qualified. The city received three responses back with qualifications. A selection committee composed of Maxwell, Mayor Pro Temp/Place 6 Councilman Doug Moore, two of the city’s three assistant city managers scored the responses, and based on the results chose KSBR.

Maxwell said he anticipates applying for $1.5 million. The initial cost for the grant application is $200,000. The award for administration would be 10 percent of the $3 million project cost, not the grant amount. The city officials contacted KSBR, and were told the firm would provide the services for 13% of the $1.5 million, or $195,000. All of that would be covered with grant funding.

“So, basically, we’ve already allocated a million-and-half dollars to the senior citizens center. We got that through that special bond election. So, this additional one-and-a-half million is going to allow us to increase the size of the building?” Place 1 Councilman Jay Julian asked.

Maxwell affirmed that the additional $1.5 million would not only cover additional costs of materials but also allow the city to increase the size of the building.

“Even though costs have gone up considerably because of inflation, this is still going to allow us to get the building that we want, furnished the way we want, designed the way we want. So, it’s going to be a $3 million project?” Julian asked. “We had the original million-and-a-half and we’re going to apply for a grant that we hope we win for another million-and-a-half. So, a $3 million project cost?”

“That’s what we expect, but we are still waiting on final construction estimates from Don Roundtree. That’s kind of where we think we are headed. It might be a little more or a little less, that’s the neighborhood,” Maxwell said.

Julian then asked how big of a size increase a grant expansion would fund.

“I think the original was 8311, but we made a little bit of expansion to that so it might be around 8500 original,” Sulphur Springs Assistant City Manager/Community Development Director Tory Niewiadomski said. “I think with this expansion it gets us up in the 11,000-square foot range, which is kind of what our desired output was from the onset, but due to budget constraints we had to reduce things to try to make it work. Which 8500-square foot is what we thought we could get, but as Marc indicated when we went out for steel bids, the price of those was a quarter-million higher just the steel erection package.”

Julian said based on his research using glassdoor.com and salary.com showed the 13% requested was “outrageously above average,” high even for the Dallas area.

“I used a Dallas zip code. The median is $79,038, but adjusting it upwards for the Dallas zipcode pushed the median $82,068. If the firm is outstanding, excellent, master’s degrees, 6-9-10 years in the business with excellent success rates, it pushes it to $90,791,” Councilman Julian said. “So, 13% seems like a lot of money. What I would query is, the other firms that did actually submit bids, did their fees match or close to the 13 percent, or were they under the impression as well it was going to be a project cost versus a grant fee, the $1.5 million?”

Maxwell said the request was for statement qualifications not a proposed fee. Assistant City Manager/Finance Director Lesa Smith reported all did submit fees. One asked for 11.5-12% and the other was 5%. The proposed cost was 20% of the overall score from the selection committee.

A guiding factor in selecting KSBR over the other two firms submitting RFQs was KSBR’s experience doing other local projects and a lot of experience with Texas Department of Housing and Community Affairs, which the selection committee felt would improve the city’s chances of receiving the grant. Otherwise, all three firms were very qualified, according to Mayor Pro Tem Moore said.

Julian asked if KSBR was selected, how much that would cut down on the work required on the part of city staff related to the preparation of the grant application, then again in tracking the funding if the city is awarded the grant.

Moore said it was his impression that that was the case, that it would lighten the load of city employees when it comes to grant preparation and a administration.

“They’ve done this, they do that, and they work daily at it,” Moore said.

“So this is going to be a friction-free process?” Julian enqired.

“Nothing is friction free, but close to it,” Moor replied

“For that kind of money, I expect it to be pretty light on us,” Julian replied.

“Like I said, one of the main considerations was their experience with this agency,” Moore said. “If we don’t get it, it doesn’t help us.”

Mayor John Sellers recused himself from discussion and voting on the agenda item, citing degree of degree of consanguinity. Stepping from the room until the council completed both.

Place 3 Councilman Oscar Aguilar made the motion, which Julian seconded, to select KSBR LC to prepare the grant application for the TDHCA Community Resiliency Program grant funding as well as contract implementation services for the grant if the City of Sulphur Springs is selection as a grant recipient, with funding for those services to be paid out of the grant. The rest of the City Council then unanimously approved Resolution No. 1284 to employee KSBR at a rate of 13% of the Community Resiliency Program grant and authorized the city manager to execute the agreement with KSBR.

Opioid Abatement Fund

Also during the Dec. 7 meeting, the City Council at the recommendation of Maxwell approved Resolution No. 1283 to join the Texas Opioid Abatement Fund Council in order to receive a portion of the settlement awarded.

Maxwell said Texas Attorney General’s Office called to see if the city wanted to participate and noted that a City Council resolution was needed to make that official.

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Author: Faith Huffman

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