Forest Park Village Council unanimously approved a one-year extension of a $20,000 grant writing contract with Algonquin-based Administrative Consultive Services — and Commissioner Michelle Melin-Rogovin will be personally helping them this time.
As the village faces declining traditional revenue sources and looming pension debt, it has increasingly relied on government grants to fund major projects. ACG worked with the Forest Park Police Department in the past, and it helped the village manage COVID-19 mitigation federal stimulus funds. In late August 2022, the village contracted with ACG to find grants for the village as a whole.
While the village council approved the original contract without any discussion, the Sept. 25 renewal vote proved to be livelier. Resident Steve Backman questioned whether the village was getting its money’s worth. Commissioner Michelle Melin-Rogovin, whose day job is to help medical researchers obtain grants, said that according to the standard industry metrics, the cost was well worth the value.
Interim Village Administrator Rachell Entler told the Review that ACG worked with the police department since at least 2012. In 2022, the company and the village discussed the possibility of it offering village-wide grants. ACG proposed four options. Joe Byrnes, who served as the commissioner of accounts and finance at the time, and Commissioner Jessica Voogd, recommended going with the “Cadillac” option.
The difference between that and the second-most expensive option, which would’ve cost the village $16,000 a year, was that it agreed to provide 24/7 support and “any required” administrative assistance.
The new contract is similar to what the village approved last year. One major difference is that ACG agrees to do up to three “requested administrative projects” a year. That developing job descriptions, preparing bid documents and compiling annual reports. And while the previous contract called for monthly payments, the company will now be paid quarterly. About $5,000 of that payment will come from the village’s ARPA funding.
During last Tuesday’s meeting, Melin-Rogovin said that the success of grant writing company is judged by how much the amount that they bring in exceeds what they were paid. By that metric, she said, they had “an outstanding ratio of success.”
“The contract for the services that the village pays $20,000 for sounds like a lot, but it’s actually very, very small,” Melin-Rogovin said. “In the past year, they wrote [grants] and we were awarded over $1 million in grant funding.”
She also said that ACG’s administrative services have been very valuable.
“They helped really support several of our staff, most importantly our finance director, in providing very technical specialized services, providing compliance for really important grant reports that we’d ordinarily have to pay someone else to do, and it would actually require a lot more than money than $20,000,” Melin-Rogovin said. “And at the [time] when we don’t have fully staffed finance department, we’re getting a lot of bang for our buck.”
She said that, going forward, she would use her professional experience to help ACG. In a follow-up interview, Melin-Rogovin pointed to the fact that she made using her skills to help village get grants part of her campaign platform, and this was simply her fulfilling her campaign promise.
“Any services that I provide to the village, or any experience is in my capacity as a commissioner, I do so with pride and with great enthusiasm,” she told the Review.
Maria Maxham, who succeeded Byrnes as the commissioner of accounts and finance, said she appreciated Melin-Rogovin’s explanation and willingness to assist the company.
“I also like the idea of giving them more direction from us, you know, from the village,” she said. “I think it will allow us to really take advantage of the services being provided. And I agree that we should continue [the contract]. It’s an invaluable service and we’re getting a lot out of it.”