Several months ago, the Molalla City Council approved setting aside $15,000 to provide Community Grant funding to Molalla businesses and organizations as a way to help build tourism and an identity for the town.

Since the grant was created, a few applications have been accepted, but as of April 9, there was still $11,000 in funding available.

At its last meeting, however, the city council revoked the Community Grant immediately after refusing an application from the Molalla River Alliance for grant funding to help make a success of the annual Wild River BBQ held every summer at Clark Park.

The way the grant was set up, the funds were to be awarded on a first-come-first-served basis by an application process. The program was focused on serving the citizens of Molalla, and the community was encouraged to apply for grant money.

Citizens could apply for the grant funding at city hall, and the city administrator and finance director would review the application. If the application was viewed favorable, the city would forward a staff report to the council for its consideration.

On April 9, a spokeswoman for the Molalla River Alliance presented a grant request to the council. The alliance asked for enough grant money to bolster the purse offered as prize money, which would then conceivably draw more competitors from California and southern states to the Molalla event.

Last year, she said, the Wild River BBQ struggled, and in order to bring in contestants, the sponsoring organization needs a hefty purse. The $3,000 now in the purse is not enough to bring in the big competition from California and other areas, so the goal this year is to build a $7,000 purse and draw 35 teams for the competition, which would help the alliance provide a better event for the community and bring in more tourist dollars to the town.

“There is no way we will have a $7,000 purse without money from this grant,” a Molalla River Alliance spokeswoman told the council.

The council, however, closed the grant entirely and will put the remaining funds to some other purpose, not yet determined.

John Atkins, president of the Molalla River Alliance, said the BBQ steering committee was disappointed with the council's decision after putting so much work into the application. “But the council sets policies and funding priorities, and that’s how it should be,” Atkins said. “The committee will be discussing our options going forward. These include cutting costs and cutting the purse for competitors. With our fundraising to date, we're confident of staging a great BBQ CookOff and Cruise-In on Saturday any Sunday, July 19 and 20, in Clark Park.”

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