SEARCH Grants Fund Critical Infrastructure Studies

Jim Holz, AICP | with 0 Comments

SEARCH Grants Fund Critical Infrastructure Studies

The Special Evaluation Assistance for Rural Communities and Households (SEARCH) program is funded through the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Rural Development agency. The program targets rural communities with populations less than 2,500.  The SEARCH grant program encourages communities to plan improvements by paying for feasibility studies and technical assistance for water, wastewater and stormwater projects.

Studies Provide Benefits
SEARCH grants encourage small rural communities to be proactive instead of just reacting to issues. The studies financed through the SEARCH grants provide the following benefits:
  • Communities can coordinate projects to save money
  • Studies can help meet other grant and low interest loan program requirements
  • With no local match required, the SEARCH grants are free
No Local Match Required
Kate Sand, USDA Rural Development’s Community Programs Director in Iowa, said SEARCH grants are awarded based on financial need. Unlike many programs, no match is required for these grants. In 2014, Iowa communities received seven SEARCH grants and another seven have been awarded in 2015. There is no deadline, but there are limited funds for the program that targets lower median-household-income communities.

“These grants help get projects started,” said Sand. “Award recipients obtain the technical assistance they need to identify key problem areas within their utility systems. With the grant funds, the recipients can move ahead to correct issues.”

Lacona Case Study
Pull-Quote-John-Miller-(2).pngCity officials from Lacona, Iowa were thrilled when they were awarded two federal grants to fund utility studies. The City received one $30,000 USDA grant for a sewer study, the maximum grant allowed, and another $17,250 for a water study.

In Lacona, a picturesque community of 350 residents, antiquated water and sewer systems are causing problems. Water infiltrates the sewer system which overloads the wastewater treatment lagoons. As part of the sewer study, cameras within the sewer pipes are identifying sources of infiltration so these areas can be addressed. The City also decided to spend additional funds outside of the grant to remove roots and other obstructions that are present within the sewer system.

“As a result of the utility studies, the City will be able to prioritize its utility improvement efforts,” Council Member John Miller said. “Otherwise, we would just be digging up the town and not knowing where to focus our efforts.”
Miller said that small communities need to take affordable “baby steps” to make progress towards improving their infrastructure. SEARCH grants promote planning so municipalities can maximize their funds and take advantage of future grant and loan possibilities.
MSA's Jim Holz and his colleagues have secured more than $54 million in grant funding for our Iowa clients. To learn more about how MSA can help your community obtain grants, contact Jim Holz.

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