MetRec grant snub riles up local nonprofit CB Devo

Applications meant to be competitive

[  By Mark Reaman  ]

The Crested Butte Development Team (CB Devo) is not happy with the Gunnison County Metropolitan Recreation (MetRec) District. CB Devo was the only one of 27 applicants for 2024 nonprofit operations grant money that was awarded nothing. The other 26 applicants were fully funded in their requests.

CB Devo executive director Amy Nolan, along with three other CB Devo supporters, Zoomed into the MetRec meeting on September 20 to appeal that decision. Devo had asked for $50,000 to help pay for the executive director’s position and fund a Junior Bike Week event director. Nolan told the board that after reviewing the comments and decision by the independent grant review committee, she felt the CB Devo application was not thoroughly read and the committee appeared to demonstrate a large amount of subjective bias against CB Devo. 

MetRec executive director Derrick Nehrenberg said CB Devo received the lowest score from the independent grant review committee across all applications, and they unanimously voted not to fund it. 

“Funding CB Devo would have put the nonprofit operations grant program significantly over budget,” he said. “So, it was a pretty easy decision for the MetRec recreation subcommittee to accept the independent grant review committee recommendation not to fund CB Devo. The MetRec board voted unanimously to approve the grant awards as recommended by the MetRec subcommittee.”

Nehrenberg explained that the budget for the operations grants was $331,000 and the total requests came in at close to $390,000. Eliminating the CB Devo $50,000 request put them close to budget.

“With 27 applicants, 26 received full funding while CB Devo received $0, this feels as though it was an all or nothing approval process,” Nolan told the MetRec board members at the September 20 meeting. “The funds were available to partially award our request and the decision to not do so honestly feels spiteful. When looking at things in black and white, our application scored the lowest by two points and we received $0 while the application scoring just two points higher was fully funded—again, this feels spiteful.”

Nolan said it was hard to understand why MetRec would fund a project coordinator for the CB Wildflower Festival, a primarily tourist-oriented organization, but not help CB Devo which works with local families. “We feel strongly that the decision to use $17,690 of taxpayer dollars to fund a project coordinator to lead free hikes for the ‘underserved’ during a 10-day festival that primarily serves tourists while denying CB Devo, a local youth community driven organization that provides high-quality, safe programming at the most affordable fees possible for nearly 200 riders, that operates for 18 weeks during the summer and fall seasons is flawed.”  

Nolan said based on comments associated with the review, she felt the grant reviewers figured that parents of mountain biking kids could afford to pay the extra money for the two positions because the sport was inherently expensive anyway. “At what point are our local families considered ‘underserved?’ The cost of everything continues to increase and CB Devo is doing everything we possibly can to keep the cost of our programming reasonably affordable for all, rather than a limited number of scholarships for a few as our budget cannot reliably sustain a broad scholarship program,” she said.

Nolan asked the MetRec board to reconsider the application and recommendation of the independent grant review committee and asked that the request be at least partially funded.

At the meeting, the board heard from Nolan and three other CB Devo staff members but did not respond directly to her request.

“We went to great lengths to conduct an open and fair recreation grant cycle this year. Everyone was told the process, and we followed it. Our recreation grant programs are intended to be competitive,” Nehrenberg said. “CB Devo can apply for the grant next year, and we encourage them to do so.”

MetRec board member Earl Marshall agreed. “This is an unfortunate situation, but as board members we must be good stewards of taxpayer money,” concluded Marshall. “My assessment of the Devo grant application mirrored that of the independent grant review committee. Having received extensive communication from Ms. Nolan, public comment and speaking with a dozen or so Devo participant parents, I stand by my recommendation not to fund the grant.”

Marshall said that several of Nolan’s comments have been “very pointed,” and he thought they would improve the MetRec grant process moving forward. “Other lessons have been learned from the post-grant interaction with the applicant that will improve our application, grant reporting and communication with stakeholders,” he said. “I think it is important that all stakeholders understand that a grant score and funding decision is not a referendum on an organization. Public comments made during our last board meeting made compelling arguments in favor of CB Devo that were well received. However, those arguments were not presented in the grant application and a grant must be reviewed based on the application as submitted.”

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