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County hires grant writing firm
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Newton County officials hope to get more state and federal money next year after hiring a grant writing firm.

The Newton County Board of Commissioners voted 4-1 Tuesday to spend $44,400 in fiscal year 2015 for Suwanee-based Palmetto Grant Consulting to seek out and write grants for various county departments. The contract is for $3,700 per month, and the Board can vote to cancel the contract at any time with 30-days’ notice.

Palmetto Grant President Susan Bacon said 13 of the 15 clients her company contracted with received funding in 2013 and had an average return on investment of 782 percent.

At the county’s $44,400 investment, a 782 percent return on investment would result in $391,608 worth of grants. However, Bacon said the average net investment (meaning above and beyond recovering the initial investment) of her clients was $52,000.

Bacon said her firm won an average of four of out every 10 applications it submitted and had a 75 percent win rate for federal and state grants.

Palmetto Grant believes the best areas for grants for Newton County are in parks and recreation, library, senior services, information systems, landfill, fire services, Keep Covington-Newton Beautiful, animal control and historic buildings.

Commissioner John Douglas was the lone vote against hiring the firm, saying he felt the county had enough existing employees who could write grants.

With the exception of Apryle Jones in the Newton County Sheriff’s Office, Chairman Keith Ellis said he wasn’t aware of any other dedicated grant writers. County Manager John Middleton said grant submissions are generally handled within each department.

“The discussion I understood was to get a single focus on our grant program,” Middleton said.

Bacon told the Board they wouldn’t be getting a single grant writer – for which $44,400 would be on the low end for cost, she said – but is instead getting a team of five employees, including two consultants, a business manager, an in-house editor and Bacon.

The two main employees for Newton County’s account would be the two consultants, including:

-Sandra Cathy, who was worked with nonprofits as well as the Greater Atlanta Home Builders Association, Gwinnett Chamber of Commerce and even the White House
-Marge White, the deputy director at the Virginia Foundation for Healthy Youth, who Bacon said is well-versed in federal funding, raising around $6 million in federal and state grants in the past few years.

The consultants work for Palmetto Grant as contractors. Palmetto Grant was founded five years ago, but Bacon said on her website she has more than 15 years experience as a grant writer.