Meta aldermen get mixed grant-funding news

By Neal A. Johnson, UD Editor
Posted 8/2/23

META   — Meta received good news and bad at the July 12 meeting regarding grant funding. The good news is that the Missouri Department of Economic Development’s Community Development …

This item is available in full to subscribers.

Please log in to continue

Log in

Meta aldermen get mixed grant-funding news


META  — Meta received good news and bad at the July 12 meeting regarding grant funding. The good news is that the Missouri Department of Economic Development’s Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) program has awarded the city $381,377 in grant funding.

Mayor Emily Sommerer signed a resolution acknowledging the city will match 15.9% in cash ($60,787) and 2% ($7,4500) in in-kind services.

Meramec Regional Planning Commission (MRPC) prepared the grant request and will administer it on behalf of the city of Meta. The total project cost is $444,298.

“The city of Meta is grateful for the opportunity to improve the city’s stormwater with the receipt of the CDBG grant,” said Meta Mayor Emily Sommerer. “The impact of the grant allows the city to clear up many of the clogged culverts and roadways that tend to cause issues with drainage. The improvements will positively impact the city by allowing for proper drainage to extend the life of roadways and drainage systems in the future. We are looking forward to improving the appearance and functions of the city of Meta.”

Bartlett & West surveyed the city’s street drainage system and identified six locations with significant drainage needs. The Jefferson City firm recommended a culvert replacement and storm sewer program with grading and clean-outs. Additionally, engineers suggested replacing a retaining wall eroded due to continued stormwater damage. Meta also plans to replace undersized culverts with larger ones to better carry stormwater and assist with grading and erosion control.

Now, for the bad news, which is connected to the good.

Meta received a letter from Missouri State Parks indicating the city’s Land and Water Conservation Fund Grant application was denied. “You can see numbers one through six, why was denied,” said City Clerk Deidra Buechter. “It appears that it was in the application, not necessarily anything that wasn’t done, but it’s missing a few things.”

According to the letter, “51 applications were received with total funding of $12.5 million requested. Ten projects were recommended for funding to the National Park Service totaling approximately $2.6 million in grant assistance. Unfortunately, the city of Meta was not selected to receive funding.”

While this year’s application was similar to last year’s, there were some changes to the project development and environmental review sections. The LWCF Committee acknowledged that the application had good community support, but there were suggestions for improvement.

— Add acreage to the LWCF boundary

— Add cell tower information to pre-existing facilities

— Add the lifespan of the facility

— Make sure that everything in the scope of the work is included in the budget narrative

— Expand on the benefits of this project to the community and surrounding areas

— The budget narrative doesn’t need to be in paragraph form; adjust the figures in the budget to make it an even 50-50 split

“Did we do this application, or did MRPC?” City Attorney Nathan Nickolaus asked.

“MRPC,” Buechter replied.

“I thought they did it, and some of these errors …,” said Nickolaus.

“That happened the last time they submitted an application (for us),” said Buechter.

“We paid them,” said Nickolaus.

“Yes, we pay them dearly,” Buechter said.

“As a board, can you fill that out instead of letting MRPC do it?” Treasurer Karla Buechter asked.

“They’re supposed to be the experts,” said Alderman Ivie Helton.

“We ought to tell (MRPC), ‘Hey, you messed this up,’” said Nickolaus.

“For the second time,” Sommerer interjected.

Buechter noted she suggested the city send a letter to MRPC following the last situation. “I wanted to tell them we didn’t appreciate paying all this money and having all these clerical errors,” she added.

“If we give them the information, they should be able to get it done correctly,” said Helton.

Clerk Buechter told aldermen that she sent a copy of the denial letter to MRPC. “I sent them the letter the last time, too,” she said. “I was very disappointed. I highly recommend this time you send them a letter. I know it didn’t get done last time.”

Clerk Buechter added these were simple things that should not have been missed.

Because aldermen were set to approve a resolution to enter an agreement for MRPC to administer the CDBG grant, there was concern about how it would proceed.

“I am a little bit worried about the administration process of hundreds of thousands of dollars,” said Clerk Buechter. “I would hope they wouldn’t drop the ball on something that needed to be done.”

“They’re going to have to keep a close eye on it,” Helton agreed.

“And you know, they get a big chunk of that money too from the grant,” Clerk Buechter noted.

Nickolaus said he believed MRPC would get 10%.

Sommerer asked what other agencies would be able to administer the grant.

“They are who you should use,” Nickolaus said. “I’m not saying you should get rid of them; what I’m saying is maybe invite them to come up here and explain themselves. They probably haven’t really visited you guys. I haven’t been at all of your meetings, but they haven’t visited you guys in a long time. Most of my cities, you know, at least a couple times a year, you hear from MRPC.”

Sommerer agreed with the idea of having a discussion with MRPC at an upcoming meeting. Clerk Buechter said she would pull the previous denial letter so both are available at the same time.

“We really don’t have a whole lot of choice on this, though,” said Helton.

“No, we don’t, especially since we got the grant,” Clerk Buechter replied. “I think it would be worth mentioning that we’ve accepted them to do this for us, and we have much higher expectations than what they’ve shown in their work.”

Aldermen agreed by consensus to have Sommerer send a letter to MRPC and request a representative be at the next meeting.

MRPC Executive Director Bonnie Prigge in response to an inquiry from the UD replied with the following: “MRPC always strives to serve our members, so we are concerned when a member is unhappy with our services. We are happy to participate in the Aug. 9 council meeting as the city has requested. The LWCF is always a very competitive program, and we never know who the competition is when preparing a grant. We welcome the opportunity to discuss the application in detail. While we would like to have a 100 percent success rate with our grant writing, that is not realistic. However, we are always looking for ways to improve our grant-writing and services to our members. On a brighter note, we are very excited that the city of Meta has been awarded a Missouri Department of Economic Development Community Development Block Grant for $381,377 for stormwater drainage improvements throughout the town. MRPC prepared this application and will serve as the grant administrator.”