On Nov. 28, city of Syracuse Mayor Stephanie Miner and Cicero Town Supervisor Mark Venesky signed an agreement that will allow the two municipalities to share grant writing services.
Under the agreement, the city will assign an employee of its Bureau of Research, Ryan Gillett, to work with the town to research grant opportunities. Doing so will allow the town to work with a professional grant writer at a significantly lower cost than hiring one on their own, availing Cicero of numerous federal, state and private grant opportunities, while the city can save money by loaning out those employees.
The town of Cicero will pay the city up to $6,000, or an hourly rate of $28.28 plus benefit costs.
Venesky said he considered hiring a grant writer when he first took over as supervisor in 2015.
“I run the town of Cicero as a business — that’s just my background. And one of the things that always haunted me was that there could be money out there, especially when we got serious about building this highway garage,” he said. “Then I’m looking at all the other needs that this town has, which are many. One of the things that stood out is that we didn’t have a grant writer.”
Venesky said he actually interviewed three candidates but found their rates to be too high, especially since there was no guarantee Cicero would actually get the grants they’d apply for. He said he reached out to state and federal representatives with limited success. It was at the county’s Shared Services Commission meetings that Venesky said he finally made some headway — well, the Shared Services Commission and a shared love of cars.
“I have a Mustang… and Mayor Miner… was there with her Mustang, and I’m looking at it, and it’s a GT, and I said ‘Wow, is that yours?’ And she goes, ‘Well, yeah,’ and I said “Cool, I have one,’ and we started talking about Mustangs,” he said. “That opened up a rapport for us and we began talking about things that the city did, if there was a way that we could come together on some things.”
The conversation turned to grant writing. The city has a Bureau of Research, which employs grant writers full-time. Venesky asked if it would be possible for the town to utilize the services of the department. Miner suggested the town could pay the city the grant writers’ hourly rate and the city could prorate their benefits.
“And I’m thinking ‘Wow, this is awesome.’ I said, ‘Let’s do it, let’s get the attorneys to write it up.’ So we did. And then of course we signed the agreement on Tuesday,” Venesky said.
Venesky said he’s asking all of his department heads, including the fire departments, to start researching possible grant opportunities.
“I really believe this is a win-win for Syracuse and for the town of Cicero,” he said. “I have a meeting here Monday at 11 a.m. in the auditorium with Ryan Gillett. And my staff will be here to talk to him and introduce themselves and kind of give him an idea of projects that would be of interest to us and to the taxpayers.”
The agreement with the city of Syracuse isn’t the only shared services agreement in which the town of Cicero is involved; the town shares animal control services with Clay as well as several with the county.
The agreement is for a period of one year with the option for annual renewals.
Sarah Hall is the editor of the Eagle Star-Review and the Baldwinsville Messenger. The 2012 winner of the Syracuse Press Club's Selwyn Kershaw Professional Standards Award, she has been with Eagle Newspapers since 2006. She is a Liverpool native.