The Indian Trail Improvement District Board of Supervisors heard a presentation Wednesday by consultant Ryan Ruskay on how to obtain grants and funding to augment money available for capital improvement projects.
ITID has several projects in the planning stages that may qualify for funds, including drainage, hazard and park improvements. Ruskay’s firm specializes in finding additional capital improvement money for Florida municipalities.
“We represent about 28 cities, counties and special districts across the State of Florida focusing on getting money for capital improvements such as infrastructure,” he said. “First and foremost, it’s addressing what is in your [Capital Improvements Plan]. Obviously, that’s of interest this time of year when you’re looking at budgets. It could be a nice way to bridge that gap to complete projects.”
Ruskay recommending looking for available grant money even for projects that can be completed with cash on hand.
“Fully funded projects can be looked at more closely to see if they qualify for grants, thereby saving money for other projects,” Ruskay said. “It’s a great benefit to your residents. It produces more projects and allows you to use more of your money toward different projects and increase the quality of different projects that you’re going after.”
Ruskay explained that he could work with ITID on general or specific projects that might qualify for grant funding.
“Matching funds, obviously, is an important thing, and it’s often an obstacle when going after grants,” he said.
The ITID board initiated its budget discussions for fiscal year 2018-19 in a workshop earlier that evening.
“If you’re looking long term, [then] including the projects that are priorities in those documents ahead of time will allow us to go after those grants,” Ruskay said, adding that community support is important in gaining financial support.
Ruskay’s firm is also experienced at “stacking” grants on one large project.
“That’s using multiple grants on one project… to maximize the results of that final project,” he said. “You can have a recreation project that is purely a park, but it may have stormwater, it may have drainage, it may have roadway improvements, it may have emergency management capabilities. All of those things have to be looked at to come up with a maximum amount of money that you can get for that project.”
Scheduling and phasing projects is another way to get more money, Ruskay said, explaining that phasing allows the possibility of getting funding for one project multiple times.
“Stormwater storage, drainage improvements, water quality and road improvements are major factors of projects that come into play when applying for grants,” Ruskay said. “Transportation, whether it be traffic calming, bike lanes, equestrian trails, all those things that go into your transportation system. There’s not a lot of funding for actual road construction, but there is a lot of funding for those things that go around them, like sidewalks and even landscaping.”
Ruskay added that funding is also available for recreation and cultural projects.
“Cultural can go for indoor and outdoor facilities, and this can be for outdoor amphitheaters and for indoor facilities such as community centers,” he explained. “This is the same grant that we had out at the Acreage Community Park. We had the amphitheater many years ago. We did get that $500,000 grant for the community center when that was on the table.”
Hazard mitigation and emergency management funding is also available.
“This is a big one right now, and one that we’ve been working on with the district lately,” Ruskay said. “There’s a lot of funding that can become available, but there are regular funding sources throughout the year to take advantage of. This can be for retention areas, drainage, flooding, culverts — anything that you can justify will help mitigate problems out there for a disaster.”
Ruskay added that it is important for ITID to keep his firm informed about projects it has in the works to see if grants are available.
He continued that there are several grants available for the district’s GL Homes offer of 640 acres for stormwater retention.
“Obviously, everything depends on site control. It depends on the type of design, but from a preliminary standpoint, you’re looking at the possibility for the retention area, including water quality,” he said. “You’re looking at drainage and flood protection through the South Florida Water Management District. That’s on top of the Moss property project, which should come around next year.”
Ruskay added that the Moss property project is unique in that it gets a lot of comments from state and local officials interested in what it does.
In 2015, ITID approved a pilot project to drain district stormwater to the Moss property, owned by the Florida Fish & Wildlife Conservation Commission, which is in need of rehydration and is cut off from other possible water suppliers.
Ruskay cautioned the board to look at projects ahead of time rather than just at the time when signing the papers. “That can be too late,” he said.
He also briefed the board on funding that might be available for planned culvert replacement projects.
“We helped identify a good portion of the culverts that need to be replaced and put them on the priority list, and that will allow us later in the year to go after hazard mitigation funds,” Ruskay said. “That money could go a long way in replacing a lot of culverts.”
He stressed that ITID must be aggressive in applying for grants. “The more you apply for, the more you get,” Ruskay said.