Covington scores half dozen grants for projects

Project funding is hard to come by for medium-size, cash-strapped cities like Covington, so for the public works department to score a half dozen grants this year is a significant victory.

It’s the culmination of a process that began three years ago, explained Glenn Akramoff, the city’s public works director.

“In 2009 we started a process where our department in partnership with a consultant put together a public works grant strategy,” Akramoff said. “The crux of the strategy was to apply for grants only when we have a viable project so as part of that we needed to put together some viable projects and get them grant ready. There were a bunch of grant cycles we weren’t aggressive with because we didn’t have projects. That philosophy is bearing fruit.”

Because the city hasn’t been able to develop and fund a large-scale capital improvement plan, Akramoff said, it made sense to make a list of projects then go after grants.

“A lot of the grant programs have been focused on creating jobs which we support 100 percent,” Akramoff said. “The challenge with that is the consultants who do the design, they have jobs, too. That’s where the small and medium sized cities get hurt, we don’t have design staff, we have to hire a consultant.”

In order to overcome those challenges, Covington developed this strategy, one which has been successful so far.

Akramoff noted that grant-giving agencies know the city comes to the process with what’s commonly known as “shovel-ready projects,” in other words, they’ve been designed and engineered, all the city needs is the money to get the work done.

All the hard work started to deliver results late in 2011 and at the beginning of this year. Those efforts were supported by the city’s recently retired lobbyist, Dick Little, who helped with securing grant money during legislative sessions the past four years.

Additionally, Akramoff said, Covington has looked outside its limits to make getting grant funding easier.

“We also do a lot of partnerships outside, so we also seek support for our grants and provide it to our partner cities and the school district,” Akramoff said. “But we’ve also done it internally where we’ve done joint grant applications (with other departments).”

By late September the city had scored six grants.

First on the list is the 2012 City Safety Program which focuses on intersection safety. Akramoff said staff from the Washington state Department of Transportation invited Covington apply for the grant. In the application 10 intersections were identified as places which need work and the city was award $250,000. He anticipates the city will begin using that money in early 2013 with an eye toward hiring a design consultant for those projects by the end of this year. That funding comes from federal dollars but is distributed by the state DOT.

Second on the list is another federally funded grant that is distributed through the state’s supplemental transportation budget. The city was award $800,000 for the next phase of improvements on Kent Kangley Road which will widen the street, also known as Southeast 272nd or state Route 516, from the Jenkins Creek Bridge to 185th Street Southeast.

A new bridge will need to be put in, Akramoff said, along with widening it to five lanes — two eastbound and two westbound lanes along with a center turn lane.

“As part of that process we put together an advisory committee of business owners and a couple of neighborhood representatives and homeowners there to help design it,” Akramoff said.  “We tried to get a diverse group to address their concerns before we get to final design.”

Next on the list is a project which will start this month in the Aqua Vista neighborhood. A grant from the Department of Ecology will fix the neighborhood’s stormwater system as well as a road that is tilted the wrong way which causes it to flood. That cost comes out to $136,000. Akramoff said the city went after a grant because after a bid was put out for the project, the estimates came in too high so the grant money will cover the difference.

Fourth on the list is a grant, also through the state’s supplemental transportation budget, to pulverize and then do an asphalt overlay between 156th Street Southeast and 160th out to 261st, Akramoff said. That’s going to be designed early next year with it slated for a summer construction timeline funded by a $380,000 grant.

“Our legislators helped us get that one,” Akramoff said. “If you drive that you can see why. We’ve band-aided that together for a while so it just needs to be done.”

Finally, the public works partnered with the parks and recreation department to get a $10,000 grant from the state’s Department of Natural Resources to fund the development of an urban forestry strategic plan.

This plan will help the city better manage its trees, those that line its streets, any that are in the right of way, trees that are in city parks, stormwater ponds or open spaces.

There has been significant public input, Akramoff said, and the city knows its trees need to be taken care of, especially the many young trees which have been planted due to the Covington’s rapid growth. For those who want to learn more or provide input, the Parks Commission will discuss the plan at its Nov. 7 meeting.

Finally, the city received $46,000 from the state Military Department’s emergency management division to develop a hazard mitigation plan.

“What that allows us to do is put together a hazard mitigation plan that is recognized by the state and FEMA,” Akramoff said. “It allows us to get money rather than wait for a storm to do damage. When there’s a storm like we have in January, there’s a pot of money that is set aside for mitigation, what you’ve identified that you need to fix in order to better respond to the next emergency.”

There are still other grants Covington has applied for and should hear about by the end of the year.

For now, Akramoff said, the city is working on what has gotten funding while preparing to develop a new list of projects to get grant money for.

“Now we have to start the cycle again,” he said.




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