NewburyportNews.com, Newburyport, MA

June 21, 2013

COW's funding proposals leaves me in doubt


Newburyport Daily News

---- — To the editor:

I’ve just returned from the Newburyport Library Archive Room where I reviewed “Funding the Waterfront Park Without Private Development: An Alternative Financial Model” by the Committee for an Open Waterfront, Inc.

First, let me say that the information and the format in which it is presented is quite professional. It is clear that effort has been expended in gathering the information and compiling it. I was a bit excited — had COW discovered sufficient funding for the project?

Alas, it quickly became apparent that the effort in gathering and compiling the information did not carry over to a review of many of the grants identified. I viewed page after page with statements like “unsolicited requests for funds not accepted”; “preference for Lowell/Lawrence”; “the foundation is devoted solely to the public’s health”; and “special emphasis is directed toward programs targeting low- and moderate-income individuals and communities.”

Why were these, and the many other grant-makers that would never fund the project, being identified by COW as potential funding sources? Surely the government grants would be better. Are the parking lots “contaminated brownfields”? Will the project “improve urban waters by improving water quality”? One of the identified grant programs stopped in 2011. After 15 minutes of Google searches I learned that nearly $1,000,000 of the $4,352,000 in government grants referenced are not available or applicable.

Yes, there are grants identified that are available and applicable. And there are funding methods (for example, a capital campaign) that could raise money. But it would require a tremendous effort to fully research, apply for and administer any grants that I’m not convinced a volunteer group could reliably coordinate. Two examples resulting in my lack of confidence: the apparent lack of review of the grant opportunities discussed above; and, the inability of COW to repair its website for months.

Even after considering some of the non-grant funding ideas (selling memorial bricks, benches and naming rights for the park; extending the hours for which paid parking applies) I’m not convinced that raising the $1.8 million needed (according to COW), and future funding for maintenance, can be accomplished as COW would have us believe.

But please don’t take my word for it. The report is available at the library. Too inconvenient? Because their website hasn’t been working, with this letter I am making an open offer to COW. Provide a copy of the report and I will post it at a neutral online site so that anyone may have an opportunity to review it. I will not make any comments or provide any opinion. In making this offer, I hope that COW’s funding plan can be easily and objectively reviewed. An authorized person from COW can reach me on Facebook at http://bit.ly/NewburyportFWD to make the arrangements.

Joe DiBiase

Newburyport