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SPRINGFIELD - The City Council approved funds on Monday to hire a grants director for the city and pay for a two-person compliance unit to ensure that public construction firms meet requirements for employment of local residents and minorities.
By unanimous vote, the council approved $40,000 from the city's fiscal 2017 free cash surplus to help pay for the three positions. The positions will also rely on grant funds and some department surplus funds.
Timothy J. Plante, the city's chief administrative and financial officer, said the grants director will expand the city's ability to pursue and obtain millions of dollars in state and federal grants. The city had a grants director in the past, but in recent years relied on consultants to assist the city in grant writing, he said.
"Bringing this function in-house will save the city money, while increasing our ability to apply for and monitor grants," Plante said.
The city is seeking applicants for the grant director position now, posting a salary range of $67,632 to $87,990. The new person will work for the Office of Management and Budget, under the budget director.
The two-person compliance unit will also work in the budget office and will enforce the city's Responsible Employer Ordinance, Plante said.
City councilors have long lobbied for hiring of staff to enforce the ordinance that sets minimum staffing guidelines for Springfield residents, minorities, women and veterans. For example, at least 35 percent of the employment for all trades must be Springfield residents, unless a waiver is deemed justified. The compliance unit adds "teeth" to the ordinance, Plante said.
"We're excited this is happening," Plante said.
The funding for the three positions is to the end of the fiscal year, June 30, but the city expects to continue funding next fiscal year, assisted by grants, Plante said.
One person, Chae Swan, was hired several weeks ago to become senior project manager for the ordinance compliance unit, while interviews are scheduled soon to fill the second position, a project manager.
Swan previously was executive director of the South End Community Center.
Councilor Melvin Edwards said the compliance unit has been long-needed in Springfield, and he thanked Sarno, Plante and the Law Department for helping to make it a reality. The ordinance is slated to be amended and revamped this year, officials said.
Councilor Jesse Lederman also praised the funding of the positions, and said he is pleased that the grants director, as one priority, will research grant opportunities in support of the city's "environmental sustainability and resiliency efforts" and provide updates to the council and Lederman's Green Committee.