Justin Ruffridge and Dave Carrey attend a meeting of the Soldotna City Council on Wednesday, July 28, 2021 in Soldotna, Alaska. (Ashlyn O’Hara/Peninsula Clarion)

Justin Ruffridge and Dave Carrey attend a meeting of the Soldotna City Council on Wednesday, July 28, 2021 in Soldotna, Alaska. (Ashlyn O’Hara/Peninsula Clarion)

Soldotna tweaks mini grant program

The council limited who can participate and what programs are eligible.

The Soldotna City Council is narrowing the scope of the city’s mini grant program by limiting who can participate and what programs are eligible. That’s following changes approved by the council during its Nov. 9 meeting.

In describing the need for the changes, council member Justin Ruffridge said he and Soldotna Vice Mayor Lisa Parker — who sponsored the legislation — were trying to refocus the program on its initial goal of investing in community projects that better the city.

“During our last sessions, with the mini grant review team, it was recognized that there were some changes that were needed to the mini grant program in order to get back to maybe the initial intent of that program,” Ruffridge said.

Among the program changes approved by the council earlier this month are the removal of the word “projects” from program language and limiting participation to organizations with budgets of less than $100,000. The changes also open the program up to groups other than nonprofits, to whom the program was previously restricted, and say that the mayor and city council — not a Mini Grant Review Team — will review applications.

Council member Jordan Chilson said he agrees the program has strayed from its initial intent, but questioned whether completely eliminating projects from the program was necessary.

“I think the majority of projects that we have seen requested probably do fall outside the intent of this program and I think it would be reasonable to eliminate that,” Chilson said. “But, I think it might be going a little bit too far to eliminate all project eligibility, because I think there is always going to be the potential for small, little community projects that do bring value to our community.”

Chilson made a motion to reintroduce the word “project” to the program, but that motion failed by a council vote of 4-3.

Programs eligible to be funded through the grant include those designed to improve the quality of life of the community, to preserve and promote the area’s history, to provide basic human needs or to improve health services, among other things. Programs ineligible to be funded through the grant include those that support a political candidate or issue, religious programs or events, large programs that may require years to complete or travel requests for groups or individuals, among other things.

Awards are limited to $1,000 per recipient per fiscal year. The Soldotna City Council approved $4,000 for the program when it approved the city’s biennial budget earlier this year. With that $4,000, the city can award $1,000 to four recipients in fiscal year 2022, which runs from July 1, 2021 to June 30, 2022. The program runs for two cycles each fiscal year: first from July 15 to Aug. 15 and then from Jan. 15 to Feb. 15.

The Soldotna City Council’s full Nov. 9 meeting can be viewed on the city’s website at soldotna.org.

Reach reporter Ashlyn O’Hara at ashlyn.ohara@peninsulaclarion.com.

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