MASSENA — A plan to seek grant funding for a mower that would benefit both the town of Massena and Massena Country Club has been scrubbed.
Town Supervisor Steven D. O’Shaughnessy, Business Development Corporation Executive Director James Murphy and town attorney Eric Gustafson had met with representatives from the Massena Country Club to discuss the submission of a grant application to the St. Lawrence River Valley Redevelopment Agency.
“It just seemed there was a lot to overcome before we could apply for that. We let them know at that time we were not going to file the application,” Mr. O’Shaughnessy told town council members on Wednesday.
The application would have been for $20,000, and the Massena Country Club would have had a $7,000 share to help cover the total cost of the mower.
Mr. Murphy said he had heard concerns that they were trying to submit an application as the town of Massena, “but we really didn’t have any stake in the country club, though there’s talk of some municipal takeover or something like that. But none of that had been put into place. You can’t just give it to the country club.”
Mr. Murphy said he asked if the mower was essential to the country club this year.
“I was told that was not the case,” he said.
He said, with only a couple of days to file the application before the mid-May deadline, there were too many unanswered questions, such as who would be responsible for the maintenance.
“It’s going to be a process. Given the time, it just wasn’t going to happen,” he said.
“And the issue of who the applicant was and the down payment and if there was going to be a down payment,” said council member Susan Bellor, who had volunteered to assist Mr. Murphy with the grant application.
Council member Robert Elsner wondered about the wording in grant applications, suggesting there should be some reinvestment in local businesses.
“I read a lot of these grant applications that are available to use and they always say some of the points you score are based on reinvestment in the local businesses and promoting local business growth,” he said
He suggested that could be the case with the Massena Country Club.
“Then I wonder why do they write these grants this way in the first place? Why do they even mention that the grant can be used for private businesses if that’s not what we can do?” he asked.
“I had been asked completely aside from my role with the BDC to just read through the grant to give advice. The first bit of advice that I gave was they weren’t an eligible applicant for the RVRDA grant because for-profit entities could not apply, only municipals and not-for-profits,” Mr. Murphy said.
“We were trying to work our way around it because they could not have been the applicant. They’re not a not-for-profit,” he said.
Mr. Elsner said he understood that but still questioned why they couldn’t apply for a grant that would benefit a local business and the economy.
“If we can be an applicant and the conditions of the application say you can use the money to support local businesses, why would we not be able to do that?” he said.
“This is a learning phase for me. Educate me as to why they write these grants using that language and they have clauses in there that seem to me that you as a municipality can apply for grants that benefit private businesses as long as there’s a community-wide interest and economic benefit,” he said.
Mrs. Bellor said the application had been for the purchase of a lawn mower, which didn’t show any economic benefit.
“None of it matched up with what the mower was going to do,” she said.
Mr. Murphy said grant applications carry more weight if they’re a public-private initiative, such as The Mercantile in Massena and the brewery that was being built on Water Street.
“The idea is to always have a match between an eligible project and a funding source,” he said. “I don’t believe it’s the government’s role to completely subsidize economic development.”