Background on recalled BACA grant

In response to BACA Grant Recalled:

Perhaps needless to say, I am aware of the article that recently appeared in the North Capitol Heartbeat regarding the BACA’s decision not to use the grant that we received from ANC 5C in 2007.  Hence, I take this opportunity to provide some additional background information on the grant and why it was ultimately decided not to move forward on the project.  In addition, I want to respond to the questions that have been raised about the current condition of the BACA’s treasury.

Please note that a number of updates were given at our monthly meetings regarding the status of this grant since the time that we received it from ANC 5C.

ANC 5C Grant:

In late 2006, the BACA’s Land Use, Planning and Economic Development Committee spearheaded an effort to apply for a grant of $7,000 from ANC 5C to amend the soil as well as to place wrought iron railings around all of the trees on Bates Street, N.W., between North Capitol and Third Street; and on Q Street, N.W., between North Capitol and Third Street.

Importantly, the ANC 5C grant was sought in order to complement a beautification proposal that had been previously developed and submitted to the DC Department of Transportation.  That is, the BACA applied for and received grant allocations in two consecutive years (.i.e., in Fiscal Years 2006 and 2007) from the DC Department of Transportation to amend the soil and place railings around all of the trees (a) along P Street, N.W., from North Capitol to New Jersey Avenue; (b) along New Jersey Avenue, N.W., from P Street to Florida Avenue; (c) along Florida Avenue, N.W. from New Jersey Avenue to North Capitol Street; and (d) along North Capitol Street, N.W., from Florida Avenue back to P Street.  In addition, the grant monies that were allocated for use in our area by the DDOT involved performing the same work around all of the trees (a) on First Street, N.W., from P Street to Florida Avenue, N.W. and (b) on Fourth Street, N.W., from P Street to Florida Avenue, N.W.

It is significant to point out that the DDOT grant allocations that were awarded to the BACA never involved the actual transfer of funds to the BACA, nor the deposit of any monies into our bank account. Rather, their “grant process” for neighborhood enhancements at the time, essentially, meant that they would work with a community organization (like the BACA) to implement the goals of its beautification initiative, but in all cases the actual identification, hiring, and payment of contractors to perform the work is all done by DDOT personnel.

As was reported at the time the ANC grant was applied for, the improvements that we were going to use the ANC money to complete were intended to supplement the work that the DDOT had committed to do in our area in the context of the grant we had earlier received from them.  We did this because we wanted to use the same contractors that the DDOT would be using, for consistency of design and quality of the work throughout our area.  So, the plan was to do the tree boxes on  Bates and Q Streets after the DDOT had finished their work on the perimeter of the community (i.e., along P Street, New Jersey Avenue, Florida Avenue, North Capitol Street and  along First and Fourth Streets, N.W., respectively).

When the original project was conceived, it was the Committee’s estimation that all of the above work could be completed in phases over the course of three years.  In year four, it was the Committee’s vision to return to ANC 5C to seek another grant to amend the soil and place wrought iron railings around the trees (1) along Third Street, N.W., from P Street to Florida Avenue; and (2) along R Street, N.W., from North Capitol to New Jersey Avenue, N.W.  So, by the fourth year of this admittedly ambitious plan (if the DDOT had follow-through on their commitment to us and if we were successful in getting a second grant from ANC 5C) by 2009 every single tree within the aforementioned boundaries would have been adorned with the same design of wrought iron railing; the soil in each of these tree boxes would have been amended so that flowers could be placed in them with an increased chance of survival; and, of equal importance, we could have celebrated the completion of a project of which we would have all been extremely proud.

Unfortunately, we waited for nearly three years (or consecutive planting seasons) for DDOT to (in sporadic spurts) complete the work that had been scheduled for our area and, sadly, we were not consulted on any of the work as it was being performed.  If we had been, the Committee would have executed its original plan to do advanced promotions about the project in order to make residents aware of what was going on as well as to encourage them to invest in the upkeep and enhancement of the tree boxes.

At this point, a good number of the tree boxes with which the DDOT lined our area in connection with the two grants that we received from them are overgrown, completely unkempt, and some of them have been dismantled already. Why?  Because the project didn’t involve the collaboration with our community organization as had been promised and expected. Indeed, our applications for the grants from the DDOT were based on a reasonable expectation that they would active consult with us on every phase of the project’s implementation.

Over the course of time, the Chairperson of our Land Use, Planning and Economic Development Committee became completely frustrated by the effort and eventually became inactive in the organization. It was at that time that we made a decision to return the grant funds to ANC 5C, to go back to the drawing board, and at some point return to the Commission with a request for funds when we came up with a new and more viable idea for a beautification project that we would not require anyone else’s cooperation to complete.

It is significant to note that the BACA continued to implement its annual Flower Power Beautification Campaign and other such projects during the above time-frame.  But, we were precluded from using the ANC 5C grant money on these projects because they did not involve the specific work for which the ANC 5C grant had been awarded.

The BACA Treasury:

With regard to questions about the amount of money in the BACA bank account, the organization’s current balance is $1,920.  As you know, the BACA is a membership organization. As a rule, the monies in our treasury come from two funding sources – one that involves the payment of annual membership dues of $20.00 per household and the other pertains to proceeds of modest fundraising projects, like our annual Flower Power Tour and Competition.  Less than a dozen residents a year pay membership dues, but we have never made this a requirement of one’s participation in the work of the organization.  That is, our practice has been that anyone who lives or works within the “service area” that we claim – i.e., the area between North Capitol Street, N.W.; New Jersey Avenue, N.W.; New York Avenue, N.W.; and Florida Avenue — is invited and encouraged to participate in the life the organization.

At this time, there is no grant money in the BACA treasury.  In fact the money that we returned to ANC 5C was the only grant money that we have received from them in recent memory.  For the most part, a relatively small cadre of neighbors have “carried the financial weight” of the BACA over the years through their generous donations in support of its projects.

Jim Berry
BACA President

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