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Jonesboro may terminate grant-writing contract

Jonesboro Mayor Luther Maddox announced Monday night that he is seeking permission to fire a company that is employed to write, and submit, grant applications for the city — only six months after the group was hired — because of alleged communications issues.

Maddox asked Jonesboro’s City Council for permission to give the Georgia Grant Writers group 30 days notice of his intention to terminate its contract. The mayor accused the company of not acting on the city’s requests to apply for 15 grants in the last six months, and of rarely responding to phone calls and e-mails from city officials.

“So far, Georgia Grant Writers has not been up, and presented any grants to the city, so I would like to request the council give me the authority to give Georgia Grant Writers 30 days notice that we are terminating their services,” Maddox told the city council.

Councilmembers decided to call Georgia Grant Writers officials before the town’s governing body, at its Nov. 7 work session, to respond to Maddox’s accusations against the group. The council is then expected to decide whether to give the mayor permission to begin the process of terminating the contract.

“Can we, at least, give them the opportunity to come before us, and explain themselves, and tell them that if they are not at the next meeting, that we’re through with them?” asked Councilman Clarence Mann, before getting agreement from his colleagues on the council.

A contact phone number, or web site, for Georgia Grant Writers could not be immediately located Monday night. Maddox said he had contact information for officials from the group, but he explained that it was in his office at City Hall, and not immediately available after the council meeting.

The grant writing group was hired last spring. According to city council minutes, some councilmembers, at the time, spoke of a need for Jonesboro to have professional grant writers who could apply for grants that could help fund some positions and projects in the city.

The issue the city now has with Georgia Grant Writers, Maddox and Jonesboro City Clerk Janice Truhan told councilmembers, is an alleged pattern of perceived inactivity. They said that has resulted in the city missing out on several grants that city leaders wanted to pursue.

“None have been acted on,” Truhan said. “I don’t get e-mails answered [about the status of grant applications]. They don’t give responses to phone calls, or even work that’s being sent to them.”

She said that the only responses she has gotten from the group has been, occasionally, getting instructions for city departments to apply for grants themselves.

“They’ve returned grants to me, saying, ‘Have PD [the Jonesboro Police Department] apply for this,’ [or] ‘Have city hall apply for this,’” said Truhan.

Maddox said some of the grant funding the city has missed out on in the last six months would have done several things in the city, including providing “the salary and equipment for one officer” in the police department, and providing money to build a permanent farmer’s market facility in downtown Jonesboro.

“They request information from city hall, and that information is sent to them, and we never hear anything else from them,” Maddox said.

Councilman Bobby Wiggins painted a similar situation when he described his dealings with the group, over two grants he wanted the city to pursue, including one for the farmer’s market facility and another to provide safer routes for children to get to school.

“I got them all the information I could get,” Wiggins said. “I finally got in touch with them, and was told they were going to have to get back here before the council, and talk to us. We never heard anything else.”

Maddox said Georgia Grant Writers’ contract stipulates that it only gets paid when it obtains a grant for the city. The mayor said the group is paid the equivalent of 10 percent of the total amount of each grant the city obtains.

Mann inquired if that might have been the reason for the alleged inactivity by Georgia Grant Writers. “Do you think the grants that are out there now are not profitable enough for them, and, maybe, that’s the reason?”

The mayor responded, however, by reiterating his claim that officials with the grant writing group have not responded to the city’s attempts at communication.

Councilman Roger Grider said the alleged lack of communication from Georgia Grant Writers would not fly for him, but he did not come out and say he was in favor of firing the group. Instead, he echoed Maddox’s frustrations with the company.

“We talk to them, but they don’t talk back to us,” he said. “Well, that’s just not going to work.”

Jonesboro leaders have not discussed, publicly, who would write grants for the city, if Georgia Grant Writers’ contract is terminated.