The grant writer position could be eliminated completely from the fiscal year 2015 budget, if the Marion Finance Committee gets its way.
Development Specialist Pamela Marean is paid $30,600 annually to research available grant opportunities and, with the assistance of Town department heads, write proposals and apply for any grants that would benefit the Town.
“While we were hopeful that this expense would more than pay for itself, that has not proven to be the case over the past few years,” states a February 28 FinCom memorandum addressed to the selectmen. “This has been confirmed in discussions with [Town Administrator Paul] Dawson.”
Marean says it is not her fault, and she defended herself during a special Board of Selectmen meeting arranged for the sole purpose of discussing the FinCom memo.
She said she cannot be successful in her duties all on her own, and that she relies on the field expertise of the department heads while seeking out grants for which the Town may be eligible.
“I haven’t had cooperation from that end,” Marean told selectmen. “I don’t hear back and I follow up and I don’t hear back and I assume they’re not interested.”
Finance Director Judith Mooney defended other department heads, saying, “We try to tell you what we’re looking for. What we want specifically.” Mooney added that there was discussion about offering Marean an office space at the Town House and office hours one day a week to foster better communication for the grant writing process, but that has not yet happened.
Mooney said Marean needed to learn more about what each department head’s specific duties are so that Marean knows where to turn for the information she needs to go after specific grants.
Mooney pointed out that for much of the time Marean has been employed, she confused the treasurer with the finance director.
“It definitely needs that communication and the follow-up from that end,” said Mooney. “As a department head, we’ve tried to communicate what we’re looking for. We’ve tried to convey what we do.”
During a follow-up interview, Marean said she feels she has more than paid for her salary in grant monies she helped the Town acquire – to the tune of $1,019,000 over just about two years on the job. She said she works 20 hours per week as Marion’s grant writer.
“I research for hours and hours each week looking for grants to apply to,” she said. “One of the problems with the job right now is I’m not getting any feedback.” She said the only way she can do her job better is if other town employees work with her.
After the meeting, Dawson said the number of grants the Town has acquired since Marean began her employment has remained steady and has not increased significantly.
“Department heads did and still do apply for grants,” said Dawson. “I’d say grants have not changed significantly since we created the position.”
Selectman Jonathan Henry argued that the selectmen have not been included in the budget process up to this point, adding that the selectmen might not agree with FinCom’s recommendations at all.
“When do we get involved with the thought process?” asked Henry. “I mean, it is the Selectmen’s budget.”
Historically, this is just how it has always been done, stated Dawson.
“I don’t want to just blindly walk into a budget reduction,” said Selectman Stephen Cushing. ”It’s obvious we’ve had some success,” adding that perhaps some people have expected immediate success from Marean instead of giving her some time to establish herself and show results.
“There’s really not a hell of a lot more to cut,” said Henry, in response to Chairman Jonathan Dickerson’s emphasis that, for years, the Town has been maintaining a level-service budget. “Does it make sense to cut off our nose to spite our face?” asked Henry.
The Board of Selectmen voted to attend the next Finance Committee meeting on March 12 to discuss cutting the grant writer position from the budget. In the memorandum, Finance Committee Chairman Alan Minard wrote that the committee is shooting to have a completed FY15 budget approved by March 12.
By Jean Perry