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May 27, 2013

Falls officials want grant administrator back at city hall

Lockport Union-Sun & Journal — Grant help sought

Niagara Falls — Mayor Paul Dyster is asking city lawmakers to approve the hiring of a grant administrator for the rest of the year.

City council members cut the part-time position during the budget amendment process last year, voting to override a Dyster veto.

Since then, city employees, not trained in grant administration, have been trying to keep up with the reporting requirements on more than $6 million worth of grants the city has been awarded. They are falling behind, Dyster said.

“We have a huge body of work that has to be done to make sure that we can keep and, in some cases, don’t have to pay back, grants that we’ve already been awarded,” he said.

Dyster’s request appears on the agenda for Tuesday’s city council meeting. He is asking the council to approve the use of $15,000 from the council’s contingency fund — a pool of money lawmakers set aside by cutting from consulting lines during budget deliberations — to pay for the grant administrator.

The mayor said placing the responsibility for completing grant paperwork on city employees who were not hired to administer grants has distracted them from their defined tasks.

“It makes more sense to have someone who oversees the whole thing,” he said.

Councilwoman Kristen Grandinetti, the only council member who voted to sustain Dyster’s veto to keep the position in place last year, approached Dyster after having a conversation with former grant administrator Sherry Sheppard-Corulli who asked how the city was doing with administering grants.

After speaking with the mayor, Grandinetti suggested he bring forth the resolution to restore the part-time position.

“Everyone is doubling up and doing different things,” she said. “The departments are already really stressed.”

The city has paid out more than $700,000 that has yet to be reimbursed due to lagging paperwork, according to a list of active grants compiled by the mayor’s office.

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