Volusia County’s Environmental, Cultural, Historical and Outdoor Recreation Advisory Committee met at grant applicants’ project sites Thursday, Nov. 18, to see what applicants wanted for themselves.
The presentations and grant eligibility meetings were open to the public.
ECHO grants are provided through a competitive application process annually and are for the purpose of acquiring, building or restoring environmental, cultural, historical and outdoor recreation facilities that are open for public use. Eligible applicants include non-profit groups, municipal governments and departments of Volusia County Government.
A property tax is projected to generate $8.2 million for ECHO in 2021-22. However, $1.5 million is set aside for trails, $256,997 is used to support staffing and operations, and $235,643 is for community redevelopment agency payments, which leaves about $6.9 million for ECHO grants.
The total amount of money being requested for this funding cycle is about $3.86 million.
Applicants are the Volusia Flagler YMCA, requesting $29,900 for a DeLand YMCA Playground and $112,500 for the Ormond Beach YMCA Aquatic & Park Project; Riverside Conservancy, $107,000 for the Living Shoreline Project; Enterprise Preservation Society, $16,270 for a new roof; the City of Oak Hill, $140,892 for a baseball field at Mary DeWees Park; the City of DeBary, $150,000 for Sullivan Park operations and a shade structure; Marine Science Center, $208,298 for a Raptor Education & Conservation Exhibit; Volusia County Parks, Recreation and Culture, $600,000 for Veterans Memorial Plaza in Daytona Beach; and the City of Holly Hill, $2.5 million for Pictona Phase 2.
There also will be a spring funding cycle.
The ECHO Advisory Committee oversees, reviews and ensures the applications meet program criteria. The committee makes recommendations to the County Council. They periodically review the criteria, procedures and guidelines of the ECHO program for modification as needed.
Volusia County Resource Stewardship Director Brad Burbaugh provided the following information outlining the steps needed in the approval process.
First there is a technical application submission by the applicant where ECHO staff reviews the application and provides feedback for improvement. Then the applicant submits a final submission for review by the ECHO Advisory Committee.
The EAC visited each of the proposed applicant sites Nov. 18 to hear an overview of the projects and better understand the applicant's plans. After the site visits, the committee met to ask questions of the applicants and voted to determine if each project is eligible for further consideration. The EAC will meet as the grant review panel Dec. 2 to score and rank applications. Applicants that receive 80 points or above will be recommended for funding to the County Council.
The Volusia ECHO program, generated by a grass roots initiative, resulted from a citizen referendum, originally approved Nov. 7, 2000.
For 20 years, ECHO helped Volusia County construct important cultural and outdoor recreational facilities, save endangered historic buildings and provide environmental education projects. Then Nov. 3, 2020, 72% of Volusia County voters said yes to continuing the program for20 more years.