Quinn Services Newsletter No. 5

Synopsis:  This newsletter provides a case study of how Quinn Services organized, managed, and administered two energy efficiency projects for the Hanna City Park District.  The cost to do the first project was only 43% of an engineering firm’s estimate.   The cost to administer both grants was only 8.3% of the grant payouts.  Additional details and references for this project follow immediately below.

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Earlier I’ve sent you information showing how Quinn Services can provide you with excellent, project-based governmental administrative services, at a cost less than what you would pay from an Engineering or Law firm.  I’ve recently completed an extended project for the Hanna City Park District that gives a case study of how this worked well in an actual situation.

The Park District had entered into a contract with Tri-County Regional Planning Commission to participate in an Energy Efficiency Community Block Grant.  Some of you may already be familiar with this program, which was part of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (federal stimulus funding).

The particular project was complex, as it involved the replacement of an existing boiler with a new high efficiency boiler system.  It would involve bid letting, project management of the boiler installation, and grant administration.  The last aspect was particularly critical, because federal regulations required strict adherence to the grant process, where non-compliance could result in freezing of funds or loss of the grant.

For these reasons, the Park District initially contacted their engineering firm to get an estimate on managing this project.  I was then asked to give my estimate.  Because of my lower hourly billing rate, combined with bidding the job in a manner that would not require engineering drawing support, I was able to complete this phase of the work at a cost that was only 43% of the engineering firm’s estimate.

I prepared a bid document package, and arranged for advertising of the bid.  The winning bid was below the estimated cost included in the EECBG Grant.  I did a background check on the contractor for qualifications, insured that the contractor met his performance requirements during the project, and prepared and submitted the required grant documents on time.   The new boiler system was successfully installed, and will result in an estimated savings to the Park District of over $5,000 per year. 

Since there was leftover money in the grant (because the contractor’s bid was lower than the estimate), the Park District asked me to develop a proposal to use the remaining grant funds to upgrade their gymnasium with high efficiency fluorescent lights replacing less efficient metal halide lights, which were also in a state of disrepair.  We learned that this project was eligible for additional monetary support from a Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity (DCEO) energy rebate program.  I prepared the applications and administered the DCEO and EECBG grants, and the total cost of materials and labor were recovered by grant and rebate funding, with no copay by the Park District.

Finally, we determined that a change had been made to the DCEO program, to allow it to retroactively provide a rebate for the boiler project.  I prepared and submitted an application which was approved by DCEO, and the additional money reduced the Park District’s share of the boiler project cost from the usual 25% to only 19.9%

Overall, the cost of the engineering and grant administration services that I provided for these three elements were only 8.3% of the grant and rebate totals, which is significantly less than would be the expected charge from an engineering or legal firm.

If you have project work that you think might benefit from this type of efficiency and cost reduction, feel free to call me at the numbers below to discuss it.  If you would like to discuss this particular project with local officials who I worked with, the individuals below have agreed to be references:

Todd Pahl, Hanna City Park District Board Member and Committee Chair for Buildings and Grounds — 309-645-8535

Fred Winterroth, Mayor of Village of Hanna City — 309-657-3516

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Terry Quinn, Quinn Services

309-383-2641 Home office

309-397-0513 Mobile phone

Quinn Services Newsletter No. 4

The Illinois Department of Transportation is soliciting projects for the 2012 Transportation Enhancement Program.  This is $50 million of federal grant money that is issued as part of the Surface Transportation Funds.  The money can be used as a 50% match against local funds for Right of Way and Easements, and an 80% match against 20% local funds for engineering, utility relocations, and construction.  The focus of projects must be in one of the following areas:

1. Provision of facilities for pedestrians and bicycles

2. Scenic or historic highway programs (including the provision of tourist and welcome center facilities)

3. Landscaping and other scenic beautification

4. Historic preservation

5. Rehabilitation of historic transportation buildings, structures, or facilities (including historic railroad facilities and canals)

6. Provision of safety and educational activities for pedestrians and bicyclists

7. Acquisition of scenic easements and scenic or historic sites

8. Preservation of abandoned railway corridors for the conversion and use thereof for pedestrian and bicycle trails

9. Control and removal of outdoor advertising

10. Establishment of transportation museums

11. Environmental mitigation to address water pollution due to highway runoff or reduce vehicle-caused wildlife mortality while maintaining habitat connectivity

12. Archeological planning and research

The online application system opened on February 1, and applications must be completed by May 29, 2012.  I have had some experience working with the ITEP program.  If you have interest in submitting a project, feel free to contact me.

Quinn Services Newsletter No. 3

This will be a short newsletter, about an opportunity for an energy efficiency grant that you may not be aware of. 

While working to help one of my clients prepare, submit, and manage a federal Energy Efficiency Community Block Grant to upgrade their heating system, someone drew my attention to another program that was not as well-known.

There is an organization called the Illinois Clean Energy Community Foundation that provides grants for infrastructure improvements that promote energy efficiency and renewable energy.   Part of the reason that this wasn’t on our radar screen is that it was funded originally by a $225 million endowment from Commonwealth Edison.  One might think that since most of us don’t get our power from them, that we would be ineligible.  But the program is open to any Illinois Community, with emphasis on helping  government and non-profit organizations.

The website for the organization is at http://www.illinoiscleanenergy.org/.  The schedule for various elements of the program are in that website.  For example, there is a lighting upgrade program that has an application deadline of September 16, 2011.  The grants are competitive, in the sense that the best projects (per their criteria) will be the ones awarded in a given cycle.

Our client was interested in this for other areas in their facility that had not been included in the existing federal block grant.  What I learned was that for a lighting efficiency grant, if it was awarded, it was simply a payment of $500 per kilowatt of energy efficiency achieved.  As a test, I applied that formula to the project we were doing under the federal grant.  We were saving a little more than 2 kilowatts with that project, so the money that the Illinois Clean Energy grant would have provided was significant, but not as much as we were able to get from the block grant.

Nevertheless, this is another source of funding for your energy efficiency projects that you may wish to consider.   And you can use this funding to add to other funds, like the federal block grants and Ameren and DCEO programs, to help pay your local share.

Feel free to contact me if  you would like me to evaluate a specific project for which this might interest you.

Terry

Quinn Services Newsletter No. 2

Today’s Topics:
Example of Project Management of a team-based grant preparation and application.
Federal and State Agency activity that may be relevant to your community.

Example: Project Management of an Illinois Safe Routes to School Grant Application

I recently completed a project for the Village of Dunlap, which illustrates how use of my services can help you accomplish your objectives, both on-time and in a cost effective manner.  This particular project required educating participants in project goals, coordinating activities, and achieving tight schedules.

The project was to apply for an Illinois Safe Routes to School grant to build a sidewalk connecting a subdivision to its schools and library. Work began about two months before the first application deadline. Since the normal lead time is five months, this project would require close scheduling and coordination to prepare a successful application.

I conducted a kickoff meeting that included representatives from the Village, a neighborhood organization, a parents’ organization, and the School District. The Village Engineer and a representative from Congressman Schock’s office were unable to attend the first meeting, but were kept informed. Representatives from the library district, the Sheriff’s Department, and a recreation organization were added to the team later as needed. I explained the goals of the program, grant scoring criteria, and the schedule. Agreement was reached on roles, responsibilities, and initial deadlines.

Following the meeting, I created a project management plan that ordered the necessary tasks based on required precedence relationships and deadlines, and I assigned tasks to appropriate team members. During the ensuing weeks, email and phone calls were used to keep the team aware of timetables and deadlines for their tasks. Team member questions were answered, and the overall project status was reported regularly. The team members responded positively, completing their assignments on-time and with high quality.

My own tasks included organizing and entering the bulk of the grant application information into the IDOT online system. I also produced a three minute video illustrating the needs and benefits of the sidewalk project as part of the project submission. This was the first time that a video had been used in a Safe Routes application, and IDOT people were very interested in it. Throughout the project, I maintained close contact with the IDOT coordinator to insure that our project would meet or exceed their application requirements.

Using this project management approach, while keeping a positive working relationship with the team members, allowed us to us meet the close deadlines and still submit a high quality application that should be very competitive based on the IDOT scoring criteria. Both parts of the application were submitted on-time. The first part was approved by IDOT without modification. The second part, the funding application for $247,759, is now being scored, and we expect to hear results in mid-to-late 2011.

If you have a need to complete an important project quickly, and / or need help with coordination of complex activities, please contact me and we can discuss if this approach will be beneficial for you.

Agency Activity

I periodically search on websites of state and federal agencies for announcements that I think might be particularly relevant to my clients.  Here are a few from January and February that might interest you:

IEPA announced 2011 Governor’s Green Youth Awards, for K-12 classrooms or students to submit environmental projects. Winners will receive a plaque. Deadline for entry is March 18. More info at http://www.epa.state.il.us/green-youth/index.html

Illinois Department of Agriculture has a new “Driftwatch” web-based program where growers can enter pesticide sensitive crops into a database, and pesticide applicators would be made aware of the location of those crops. http://www.illinois.gov/PressReleases/PressReleasesListShow.cfm?RecNum=9170

USDA: Disaster assistance for Livestock Producers Affected by Ice, Cold, and Heavy Snowfall. LINK

USDA: Conservation Reserve Program Signup Period Announced LINK LINK2

DCEO: Incentives for phase out of old style T12 fluorescent bulbs in public buildings
http://www.commerce.state.il.us/dceo/News/pr12142010.htm

   
I am currently monitoring press releases at these agencies:

Illinois Department of Transportation
Illinois Environmental Protection Agency
Illinois Department of Natural Resources
Illinois Department of Agriculture
United States Department of Agriculture
Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity
U.S. Housing and Urban Development

If you would like any other agency tracked that is not on this list, let me know.

Terry Quinn, P.E.

Introduction to Quinn Services Newsletter

Welcome to the Quinn Services Newsletter. I’m Terry Quinn.

I will be using this medium to provide updates on how Quinn Services is helping its current customers, and to describe any new services I might offer. I also plan to send out notices from time-to-time that will inform you on events that may be of importance to you. An example of that was the email that I sent out to some of you last June, with information of the opening of the IDOT Transportation Enhancement funding cycle.

One such announcement right now is that the DCEO “Hurricane Ike” Disaster Assistance program has a deadline for application on January 31st, 2011. This program provides grant assistance for public infrastructure that was damaged due to storms that occurred in 2008. 41 counties are eligible, including Peoria, Woodford, and Livingston, but not Tazewell. More information is in a Powerpoint Presentation at this site: http://www2.ildceo.net/comdev/ike/piw.ppt. If you have trouble opening it directly, try saving it first to your computer, and open it from there.

The reason I am using WordPress rather than just emails is that it is easier to read, and the information will remain here for your future reference. It also serves as an easy way for my potential new clients to learn more about Quinn Services. There are some links on the right side of this Newsletter page that include information about the company.

Finally, Quinn Services is a new concept that hasn’t been done before in Central Illinois. So you might say that it is really an experiment. That is why your feedback is very helpful. While I always want my clients to feel free to call me with any ideas or concerns, this discussion medium offers another means to communicate. I’ll use that input to make improvements and offer more value to you.

As I did with this message, I’ll email you a link whenever something new is posted here.

This seems like a good place to stop for now. Please feel free to offer your suggestions on future topics that would be helpful to you.

Finally, thank you for reading this.

Terry Quinn, P.E.