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Author: 
Ginger Watkins
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The City of Cameron’s Journey to a $560,000 EDA Grant

Hopefully, everyone heard about the grant that the City of Cameron was awarded from the US Department of Commerce Economic Development Administration (EDA).  The grant brings $560,000 of federal money into Cameron with the City and Cameron Economic Development Corporation both contributing to the required $140,000 in matching funds.  The journey to receiving a grant isn’t short.  It takes a lot of time, people, and information to prepare, plan and submit any type of grant application. 

This grant was started under the EDA CARES Act grant program.  The EDA CARES Act grant has a provision for 100% funding at the discretion of the Secretary of the US Department of Commerce EDA --  the discretionary decision would have been based on the economic need of the community.  The City’s original application was submitted with the hope that the grant would be approved under this provision.  Even with the partnership between the City and the Cameron Economic Development Corporation we knew that we couldn’t provide matching funds for the original scope of the application.  However, the application was submitted with three different economic development projects outlined with the hope for 100% funding.  The original application’s projects included concrete or asphalt overlay on all of the roads in the Cameron Industrial Park, new asphalt on all downtown streets, and a safety improvement project on Adams Avenue. 

As you might imagine the CARES Act grant received a lot of applications across the nation.  The first review of the initial grant application by EDA representatives resulted in a recommendation from the EDA that we revise the application to included only projects that the City could undertake and provide 20% matching funds.  If we did not follow this feedback our grant would have been denied and would have had no opportunity to be reconsidered for funding. 

Naturally, the City went back to the drawing board to revise the grant to include projects that we could provide at least a 20% matching grant.  The scope of the project had to be drastically revised.  The revised application included chip-sealing Industrial Boulevard, Blake Avenue, and a short section of Old Waco Highway along with concrete radius turns at the intersection of Blake Avenue and Industrial Blvd. and Old Waco Highway and Industrial Blvd.  The Industrial Park roads serve heavy truck traffic which supports the employers in the industrial park. The Industrial Park businesses support hundreds of jobs, citizens, and families in Cameron – an essential part of the economic landscape in Cameron.  The rescoped improvements, while not our ideal solution, is an improvement over the current state and important to the safety of the citizens and businesses using these streets.   The second area that we were able to fund is the safety improvement project on Adams Avenue which will include resurfacing Adams avenue from the highway to the railroad crossing.  Sadly, there simply was not enough resources to come up with funding to resurface the downtown streets. 

The grant was resubmitted with the revisions made to projects that could be supported with 20% matching funds. Next, we wait and hope.  If the application is good enough, then perhaps we receive written questions to answer.  We did receive questions from the EDA which we answered.  Then we waited some more.  The City was fortunate to be asked by the EDA to resubmit the grant under the EDA’s traditional grant funding program.  This took the grant out of the large pool of grants under the CARES Act applications into a smaller pool of applications – this was a fantastic opportunity and ultimately, provided for the grant the City received. 

So how did the City come up with the 20% match given budgets that were already defined? Since the rescoped projects include work that the City has the manpower and equipment to perform, some of the work will be done by the city.  This work is called an in-kind match.  Meaning no real dollars involved.  The current City budget also includes funds to do some chip sealing in the Industrial Park, so those funds were available to use for the matching funds.  The last source of matching funds are funds set aside by the Cameron Economic Development Corporation (CEDC) for improvements to the infrastructure that support The Yards of Cameron.  Infrastructure refers to the roads, water, sewer, power, etc., that are necessary to support a new project.   The safe entrance and exit from the highway to Adams Avenue was identified during the first phase of construction of The Yards as essential.   By working with the resources on hand and the CEDC partnership, the City can undertake two projects that it would otherwise not be able to do.  Over half a million dollars in new funding is hugely significant to the City. 

This grant would not have been possible without the knowledge and time of Craig Arnold, City of Cameron Streets and Parks Director; Rhett Parker, Cameron City Manager; and, Kendra Coufal, Planning at the Central Texas Council of Governments.