By Jerry Brant
For the past six months, we have anxiously been awaiting the release of the federal stimulus funding
for fire station construction and renovation. On Friday, our wait came to an end with the release of the guidance documents for the Fire Station Construction Grants Program (SCG).
As you look to determine whether your department will apply for this funding opportunity, there are a number of recommendations to remember:
1. Please read the guidance documents carefully. In fact, read them again and highlight or take notes as you read.
2. Pay particular attention to the Appendix sections that are part of the document. I know under other programs we like to skip these sections thinking we don't have to be concerned about those things until we get funded. That is not the case with this application! There are several areas that are addressed in the Appendix that could have dramatic financial and programmatic effects on your project.
3. As of writing this column, there are no scheduled workshops for this application. I strongly suggest you check Firegrantsupport.com and FireGrantsHelp.com on a regular basis for any new information that will be posted concerning the grant.
4. If you have a question or you're not sure about some provision listed in the application, then call the help desk at 1-866-274-0960 and ask for assistance. Remember, the only dumb question is the question that is never asked.
As we head into uncharted territory, please keep in mind that this is not the typical DHS grant that we have grown accustomed to over the past nine years. This grant is part of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.
The main focus of this substantial funding package is to stimulate the nation's economy through the construction of public infrastructure projects. As such, the FSC grant has a number of regulations attached to it that many of us may not be familiar with including:
1. If your construction or modification project is funded, any on-site work that takes place is subject to the Davis-Bacon Act. This means that workers directly employed at the site will be paid no less than the prevailing wage rate and fringe benefits for that labor district. Depending on your location, this could have a sizeable effect on your budget if these amounts are not factored in before you submit your application. If you are getting price estimates from someone to develop your application, make sure they are aware that this is a "rated job." If you are not sure of the rates for your area, you can go to Dol.gov/esa/programs/dbra.
2. This program will cut across several agencies and levels of government. For example, you must be able to secure a permit from your local jurisdiction for construction. You also must have the proper zoning or a variance in order to proceed. I strongly suggest you inform these local agencies of your potential project to determine if there are any issues that need addressed. The situation could occur where you are approved for funding but you cannot get local approval to build.
3. Similarly, your project will probably require an Environmental Assessment. You will want to include the cost to perform this work in your budget because it may be several thousand dollars.
4. If you are modifying an existing building that is more than 50 years old, you will have to notify your State Historic Preservation Office (SHPO). Depending on your building's age, condition and its historic or architectural significance, this could also have financial, design and time impacts on your project. Again, determine if this will apply to your project and address it as soon as possible.
5. After your grant is approved, you will be required to notify a number of county, state and federal agencies of your plans. All of these agencies by law have the right to comment on your intended project and any impact it may have on their particular programs. Also, you will be required to publish a notice requesting public comments on your plan and you may be required to hold public hearings on this proposal.
Hopefully this information so far has not deterred you from proceeding with your application. This process is going to be time consuming and require assistance from your department personnel.
If you are going to be competitive with your application, then you need a team approach with assigned duties to each team member and rigid time line for development of your proposal. In the next part of this series on the FSC Program, I will focus on the program priorities. Good luck!