Egremont must improve grant-writing procedure
To the editor:
In response to The Eagle's Sept. 24 article about the FEMA grant for $174,373 awarded to seven North County fire departments to purchase needed fire hoses, as a retired Egremont volunteer fireman with 40 years on the job, I congratulate these chiefs for thinking outside the box in winning their grant.
I had asked Egremont officials to put in for a $119,000 FEMA grant to purchase much-needed breathing masks (SCBAs) for our firemen. Egremont did not win its grant.
When I carefully read the grant as written later, I was surprised for a number of reasons.
The grant writers, who are not firemen, failed to have their write-up proofread or vetted by firemen who had successfully written FEMA grants for over a million dollars. Egremont's grant writers answered "no" to FEMA's question "Do you have any fire hydrants?" when in fact we have 17-18 draft hydrants which helped to improve our ISO insurance classification from poor to enviable for homes and businesses served by these hydrants. These draft hydrants improve protection for properties, lower insurance premiums and may save lives in the event of a fire.
The FEMA-required narrative also failed to mention that our frugal firemen built our two fire stations with almost no tax dollars, thus saving our taxpayers lots of money.
On August 29, when our Selectmen announced that Egremont lost the FEMA grant, I immediately tried to ask permission to speak to try to set up a critique to find out how our town could learn how to improve its grant-writing ability. Selectman Chairman Charles Flynn said no and asked me to file my request under the "citizen's time" procedure. This was an obvious delaying tactic by Mr. Flynn, but I did file my request right away as ordered.
On Sept. 9, I received a letter from Mr. Flynn in which he wrote that before I could address the board, he would have to consult with the police/fire chiefs and the Emergency Management Committee. Because I had already prepared my written suggestions for improvements in the grant process by August 29, I could not see anything to be gained by Flynn's delaying tactics and did not want to go down into Flynn's rabbit hole for no gain.
To my knowledge no critique to improve our grant writing skills has been posted yet. However FEMA has just posted that a new round of grants will be open on Oct. 11 and closed on Nov. 18.
If Egremont plans to pursue a new FEMA grant, Mr. Flynn best stop his delaying tactics and set up a learning critique to help win the next grant very soon.
William Weigle, Egremont