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  1. #1
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    Question FIRE Act Grant awards: What are they thinking?

    I know this might be in the wrong forum, but can anyone tell me how the decisions are made as to who gets the FIRE Act grants and who doesn't. I kinda figured that financial need would be a huge factor for awarding grants. I've noticed in the posting of some of the winners, that there are repeat winners. I've also noticed that quite a few of the winners are large deparments. Meanwhile, some of the smaller vol. depts with "antique" apparatus, out-dated equipment, and a genuine financial need are being passed up. Is this all about politics or what. Like I said, this might not be the right place, but I had to vent.
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    From what I've read there are many contributing factors to the process, but at the same time its also a little bit of luck. The best place to find your answer is to go to FEMA's web site. They explain the process and have a FAQ's page.
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    The amount we asked for was based on how much money we could come up with for matching funds. Low funds = low grant award.

    It wouldn't have done us any good to be awarded a grant to buy $175,000 engine since we don't have the $17,500 to match.

    That's one reason you see such variation. There are other factors in the decision making process. I recommend you check the FEMA site as well.
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    FIRE Act is pork, to be doled out appropriately. Hmmm, two announced in our area the week of Democratic primaries for Congress...not that our Republican Congressman would want an oppurtonity to put his name in the paper that same week.

    As SilverCity said, part of it is you need the matching funds. Part of it is you have to write a good grant application.

    Part of it is the money also needs to be spread around, big cities/small towns, vollie houses/IAFF houses, wealthy departments/dirt poor departments, between the different grant categories -- gotta make a whole lot of constituent groups happy so you have the broad-level support to get the appropriations past Congress & the President. And once awarded, or planned to be awarded, gotta figure out when to announce whom to help the most friends in Congress. Does anyone out there believe we'd be getting an extra $150,000,000 if it wasn't an election year? Well timed grant awards can buy press time just as well as soft money...it just takes getting a whole lot of people on all sides together to roll the pork barrel.

    Hey, enjoy the taste of the other white meat if you're lucky enough to get a grant, but don't forget what it is you're eating.

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    Well said, Dalmatian90. My sentiments exactly.
    Last edited by killerb; 07-29-2002 at 12:58 PM.
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    Who's being turned down?

    No "Dear John" letters have been sent yet and if you've read the other forums on this subject you'll know that FEMA will be giving out the grants every two weeks until the end of the year.

    If you want to make sure you win a grant e-mail your congressperson and senators to urge them to have the President sign the additional $150 million that was just passed.

    As for the formula for giving the grants out, the "richer" departments have all been paid departments and there is a split built in to the program for both volunteer and paid so that everyone gets something. Silver City was correct about the matching funds. Last year FEMA did not give out the grants to those who didn't have the money in the bank not, "well we'll have a pig roast next month to get it".

    If we want this program to continue we (the fire service) have to learn how to play the game, play by the rules and have good sportmanship about winning and losing. I don't want to get into the "whining" area again but complaining about losing before the game is over will not help our cause at all.
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    Well put Dragon-fyre... Don't jump off the bridge yet. I suspect they will be awarding grants for some time yet and there was just another $150 million added...right?

    Dalmation90...I am shockedand a bit disappointed you try and turn this into a political activity. I know a couple people who review the grant applications and I can assure you they are not politicians. I also know that a lot of grants are not prepared properly and do not provide sufficient information and documentation. They are not even considered. It has been said from day one of the process last year that the way you right your grant will help determine if you get it and how much you get. A lot of departments did their homework well and followed the lead of the department from Indiana after they received two huge grants last year. They realized if they wanted it they had to work for it and document and justify their need to the moon.

    Sure...after 09-11 ALL the lawmakers scrambled to help emergency providers become better prepared...but...I don't think this increase in funding will "buy" many votes and it will certainly not come close to adequately preparing us.
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    Originally posted by captstanm1

    Dalmation90...I am shockedand a bit disappointed you try and turn this into a political activity. I know a couple people who review the grant applications and I can assure you they are not politicians.
    I realize that the decisions are made by a panel of FF personnel, but when they release the news to the congressperson before the company finds out about it, makes you wonder about the politics.

    Even if it isn't outright politics, they need to balance the $$ across states, giving an appropriate number of awards in the right amount to each state, otherwise there would be a ton of political pressure coming down...
    The above is MY OPINION only and not that of anyone else. I am not representing any organization in making a post here!!!!

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    CaptStanM1, the same could be said for your position. Regardless of the evaluator's fairness, if you don't think this is pure politics, you must vote in Florida. A dept. a friend is on hasn't heard a word from their senator, congressman (FEMA or anyone else for that matter) regarding their grant. The local paper got a press release from both the senator and congressman 2 weeks ago.

    Look at the whole of the history of the fireact (you'll recall it was DOS, grave yard dead, Tango Uniform, taking a celestial dirt nap, fooed for worms... until gore needed votes) and tell us again how it ain't political in nature (just like 100% of the rest of the welfare programs).

    Welfare buys votes. Guess who don't have a whole lot of votes to sell?

    Medic129, to answer your question all you have to do is prove on paper you need the money.

    How hard can it be to make the most rosey situation look like a used cat litter box on paper?
    It's only my opinion. I do not speak for any group or organization I belong to or associate with or people I know - especially my employer. If you like it, we can share it, you don't have to give me credit. If you don't, we are allowed to disagree too (but be ready to be challenged, you may be on to something I'm not). That's what makes America great!

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    Mongofire99...point goes to you on this one. I was not aware that the recipients names were released to politicians prior to the department. I certainly do not agree with that process.

    But..I still stick by my thoughts that the entire process is not political. I have followed some political speaches and campaigns and not one mention was made by these politicians relating to the Grants for Emergency Services Providers. Now I will admit that a few snake in the grass politicians may use this process as a feather in thier cap...but that does not make the entire process a political ballgame.

    I do know some departments that reveived notification on their approval before the announcement came out. Their notification was by letter from the grant administrators.
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    Dalmation90...I am shockedand a bit disappointed you try and turn this into a political activity. I know a couple people who review the grant applications and I can assure you they are not politicians.

    Gee, you've never read some of my other posts on FIRE Act have you Cap?

    The initial selections may not be made by politicians, but I'll my bottom dollar the decision of who is awarded when is.

    Selections may not be political, but the entire program is.

    $350,000,000 is lip service so Congressmen can show their constituents that they're bringing home the bacon by saying XYZ city got $175,000 for a new brush truck.

    But it amounts to only $1 annually per person, where we're already spending (conservatively) $50/person each year nationwide on fire protection.

    The reforms needed in fire protection funding are at the State levels -- to require both a) minimums in levels of protection (which may vary by community profile) and b) minimum property taxes dedicated towards providing that protection. And when the a community doing "b" can't provide "a" that State income taxes go towards assisting those rural communities lacking tax base and those urban areas with eroding tax bases achieve "a".

    If you get FIRE Act money, great. But what is essentially a federal lottery for local departments to win is not getting to the heart of the matter, which is problems in funding fire departments at the local level, and that's a state responsibility to address.

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    Originally posted by Dalmatian90
    FIRE Act money...is essentially a federal lottery for local departments to win is not getting to the heart of the matter,
    You get the Claw Hammer Award for that one Dal, right on the head of the nail! A few years back when the Fed hired, what was it? 10,000 new cops? It was not even pork it was all pig crap, there was no provision to continue funding after they got all the political ride out of it they could, now those PD's are laying off people because they lack the funding to keep paying for the new cops. Not to mention that the number of new cops amounted to less than one per PD. This is what, the third or fourth year that the Fire Act has been worked on yet only the second to give money?

    As for local funding, you should not have gotten me started on that one. While the town I live in now has got its priorities pretty straight, my last FD was having bake sales for our 1st TIC while the cops were out running around in their new boat to cover the 3/4 of a mile coast we had in the the city. Of course they had lots of company with the three boats the harbor master already had and the two USCG patrol boats that were stationed in the harbor. Meanwhile we had a truck that was breaking leaf springs litterally while sitting in the barn and the cops got brand new cruisers to replace those "worn out" two year old ones they had. We cleaned the floor, scrubbed the toilet, and painted the public safety building, never saw a cop there to help. We used the ladder to put up street signs when DPW had a perfectly good cherry picker, we used the brush truck to water the plants on main street, and we had to beg for a new pickup to replace the one we broke the frame on while plowing the police parking lot. Why is it that the FD is almost always the orphan child that no one wants (until their house is on fire)?

    You can bet that this ride is short lived, as tight as the budget is now you can bet we've only got a few years to play the lottery. If it continues after that there will be many strings attached to it, to be sure, and the public will go back to forgetting why the FD is needed at all.

    Don't get me started!

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    I'm with you on this one, Dal...100%. Anyone who thinks they're competing solely on the merits of their project and their "neediness" on a level, non-political playing field is smoking some stuff I'd have liked a lot in my college years...

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    I wondered when someone would get around to the cops.

    304, your post is contradictory. If you really look at the federal issue, there in effect was not one cop hired by any money passed through from the federal government. While there may have been grants available for exttra cops, very little of the money actually went through to the locals.

    If the total hiring was less than one cop per PD, how is it that there are mass layoffs of unfunded cops? Please cite one PD that is laying off cops because they are no longer funded by the federal government.

    I have addressed the local funding issue here before. But I'll do it again. The question is why do the cops get $ while the FD is out running bake sales for equipment? The answers:

    1. Law enforcement is far more organized and generally presents a united front on funding issues. The fire service couldn't get their people to agree on whether it was night time or day time.

    2. Law enforcement refuses to compromise. There are some things they simply refuse to do. Most of them because it is not their job. When was the last time you saw a cop sweeping the precinct? Does that make them less dedicated or professional? Of course not.

    3. The fire service has a long history of self sufficiency. The FD does everything for itself. They build fire stations, they pant their fire house, they build apparatus, they fix their own stuff, they make their own tools, etc. That mindset is now carried over to the conventional way of thinking and people expect the fire service to do those things.

    4. Law enforcement does a much, much, much better job of marketing than the fire service could ever think of.

    When you add all those things up, it's very academic.

    As far as inadequate apparatus and equipment...if there was a PD who could not afford to meet the strict standards set forth in every state for PD's, the PD would cease to operate. Period. That's why they get alot of the money they need to operate.

    Yet, the fire service generally refuses to have those type of standards put in place. A PD would never be allowed to operate if it didn't have enough money o give their guys guns and bullets. But we allow a FD to operate in jeans and T-shirts. It is the fire servies fault for tolerating this.

    And please don't turn this into a cop vs. fire thing, because it is not. They are doing OK for themselves and the fire service needs to learn a thing or two from law enforcement.

    BTW: Who really cares who gets told about the grants first as long a you get the money? That is juvenile nonsense.

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    Comparing the police department and the fire department are like comparing apples and oranges. Two very different jobs. The only things that are similar are the fact we are paid by the public and that they both are dangerous occupations. I hear that we should "market" ourselves better. How do you propose we do that? When some hack firefighter gets in trouble for doing something stupid, we wring our hands and fret. What about the organized corruption that has plagued law enforcement since the first badge was issued? Is that good marketing? The general public fears the common criminal much more then having a fire in their home. That is where law enforcement has the edge for tax dollars. Not that they do a better job. Not that people are satisfied or even really trust the police. I like Cops. They have a thankless job that I would not want. Do I think we spend too much money on law enforcement as compared with the fire service? Yes. I need look at my own town and the money wasted on things that dont really matter one iota when it comes to public safety.More kids are burned to death each year then die from drugs. Do we get the support we need to really do an effective job of public education? Nope. DARE is the biggest hunk of pork I have ever seen (no pun intended)and it has been proven NOT to work, but it keeps right on rolling along. Try and implement a program like Risk Watch, its like pulling teeth. Good marketing? NO. Politicians not wanting to appear "soft on crime" Yes.

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    The cops v. fire arguement doesn't hold water, from either George's or Fire304's point of views.

    During the decade of the 1990s, with the "100,000 cops" initiative, the number of full-time law enforcement officers increased by 9% nationwide.

    During the decade of the 1990s the career fire service also grew by 9%, without the benefit of federal funding.

    Bottom line to those statistics: Local municipalities grew their Police & Fire forces as they felt appropriate irregardless of federal money.

    The major accomplishment of "100,000 cops" wasn't to add cops to the payroll for the longtime, but let departments hire replacements for retirees three years earlier than they otherwise would've. That way departments could get a cop now under the grant knowing that normal attrition within the next couple years would keep them from having to create a permenant position.

    As for the cops better marketing themselves, or refusing to do other jobs, or having statutory funding requirements, I think you'll find in most communities that have fully paid fire departments there is pretty close parity in Police & Fire budgets since payroll by far and away is the largest component of any budget.

    There are three places you'll find large discrepancies in police/fire budgets. And largely their based on the fire service's fairly unique needs for geographic closeness and rapid assembly of lots of manpower.
    -- Very Large cities will reach a plateau where it's tough to justify packing companies in any closer, while police will still rise with population & crime levels. Police higher than fire.
    -- Very Small towns will fund a fire department since they can't wait 15 minutes for an engine from the County Seat to respond, but 15 minutes is just fine to wait for a Deputy Sheriff to come out and take the report on the burgalry that was committed last night. Fire higher than police.
    -- Medium sized towns that have a small police force, but on-call or combination fire departments. Police bigger budget since they have payroll to meet, and fire doesn't.

    In all three of those it's differences in the geographic & population needs for fire & police protection that drive funding levels, not public relations.

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    Is the FIRE act program political? Sure it is, it was the politicians that pushed it through.

    Is it Pork? Maybe

    Has it helped FD's in my state? Without a doubt, and the money has gone to departments that needed it.

    But.... it is money that we can use if we receive it. And hey, if you don't like the program or don't want the money then don't apply and that leaves more money the rest of us.
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    And hey, if you don't like the program or don't want the money then don't apply and that leaves more money the rest of us.

    You may not agree with the program, but it's downright foolish to allow others to rob you of your money simply on principle. Hell ya I'll support whatever it takes to bring the money back home -- money that should've never left home to begin with.

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    As long as I win some money, I'm in favor of the program!
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    More kids are burned to death each year then die from drugs. Do we get the support we need to really do an effective job of public education? Nope. DARE is the biggest hunk of pork I have ever seen (no pun intended)and it has been proven NOT to work, but it keeps right on rolling along. Try and implement a program like Risk Watch, its like pulling teeth. Good marketing? NO. Politicians not wanting to appear "soft on crime" Yes.

    I was agreeing with you right up until this point.

    First of all, the number of kids who die as a result of overdose of illegal drugs is leaps and bounds ahead of fire deaths. We only lose about 4500 people per year total to fire. Figure 2/3 are juveniles (that's probably way high). That's 3000 kids. Only 3000 drug OD cases? Not on your life. My county loses 2-3 times more kids to OD than to fire, probably more.

    DARE not work? Which liberal group study are you citing. Please cite the reference for the statement that DARE has been proven not to work.

    How much time does your FD spend in the schools? If you want to get to people, you do the same thing that DARE does, you start when they are young. Get the kids bugging their parents about smoking and smoke detectors, about having fire drills, about basic fire safety. Guarantee you will find a difference. I work in one of the top five most affluent counties in the country. Virtually evey fire death we have occurs in a home with no smoke detectors. As I have said here a dozen times...if you are truly serious about reducing fire deaths and fire loss, start a campaign to educate the public about smoke detectors. Spend the money to buy detectors for people who can't afford them and then go put them in for them. Will you get everybody? Of course not, but you will start reducing your fires and your deaths overnight.

    Marketing? One simple example is Community Policing. Cops go out into the community and get close to the people. They take their toys out and show them to the kids. They play ball with the kids. They work with Senior Citizens. They are out there.

    What do most (most, not all) FD's do? They hide in the kitchen behind the big roll up door until the hook goes in. Then they ride out, do what they have to do, and back in and shut the doors until the next one. Hell, the fire houses are in the friggin' hoods. You are already close to the people.

    What's wrong with community-based fire service? I know, I know, "We're only volunteer and we don't have enough time and we are so overworked and there are so many regulations, wah wah, wah." You either want the support to get recognition and funding or you don't. Make the choice.

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    George - as usual, "Well Said".

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    Originally posted by George Wendt, CFI
    How much time does your FD spend in the schools? If you want to get to people, you do the same thing that DARE does, you start when they are young. Get the kids bugging their parents about smoking and smoke detectors, about having fire drills, about basic fire safety. Guarantee you will find a difference. I work in one of the top five most affluent counties in the country. Virtually evey fire death we have occurs in a home with no smoke detectors. As I have said here a dozen times...if you are truly serious about reducing fire deaths and fire loss, start a campaign to educate the public about smoke detectors. Spend the money to buy detectors for people who can't afford them and then go put them in for them. Will you get everybody? Of course not, but you will start reducing your fires and your deaths overnight.
    AMEN!

    In the twenty years that I have been with my volunteer company, I can think of at least 10-15 times that we have responded (or local EMS) and some elementary school kid is the "hero" when mom and/or dad were in a panic not knowing how to call 9-1-1 or the 7 digit in the pre-911 era and the kid grabs phone and gets police/fire/ems. Asked where and how he/she learned, it was the fire safety lecture at school. Other times had family woken in middle of night by smoke detectors installed at insistence of little kid. It doesn't take a lot, but it goes a long way.

    Originally posted by George Wendt, CFI

    Marketing? One simple example is Community Policing. Cops go out into the community and get close to the people. They take their toys out and show them to the kids. They play ball with the kids. They work with Senior Citizens. They are out there.

    Go to the community fair with the truck. Take Santa around at Christmas. Have one member attend town council meetings in company t-shirt. Have an open house during fire prevention week. Give out candy on Halloween. Its all marketing and it doesn't take too much. When someone asks about something, talk to them. Make sure your governing body gets quarterly reports on what the FD has done, then attend a meeting and ask if they read it. Have all the guys chip in $5 and sponsor that baseball team.

    George is right, get the community on your side and you can get a whole lot more in return.
    The above is MY OPINION only and not that of anyone else. I am not representing any organization in making a post here!!!!

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    I haven't really thought this out, so you guys feel free (like I need to give you permission ) to shoot holes in it.

    Police presence reduces crime rates. Regardless, somewhere somebody is still going to get shot and killed. Now, who gets the blame? Even if the police hadn't patrolled the area in years, it's still the guy that pulled the trigger that is ultimately responsible.

    Now, would anyone agree that most fires are acts of stupidity? Someone intentionally sets one or carelessness causes one. Not many fires start without a person helping in some fashion. Regardless, I think many firefighters (and I think it may well be worse in volunteer and rural departments) think that the public will blame the FD when fires kill people and destroy houses. Particularly if they said, "Screw it. Buy me NFPA compliant gear and get me a truck that doesn't use more oil than diesel and we'll fight those fires again." It's not the fire department's fault the fire started, but many firefighters feel some level of responsibility.

    That being said, that may be a reason why firefighters and fire departments are willing to compromise more willingly than the PD. The firefighters feel the public will perceive a failure on the part of the FD, rather than the idiot who had four extension cords plugged together running 10 appliances.

    Not that people don't point fingers at the PD, and certainly not that police officers don't feel responsible for the communities they protect--I just think there is a huge philosophical difference in firefighters and police. Those differences are reflected in how our organizations are run as a whole.

    Let the fray begin! C'mon George, you've never let me down yet. Tell me what you think.
    Last edited by SilverCity4; 07-30-2002 at 05:08 PM.
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    Originally posted by George Wendt, CFI


    How much time does your FD spend in the schools? If you want to get to people, you do the same thing that DARE does, you start when they are young. Get the kids bugging their parents about smoking and smoke detectors, about having fire drills, about basic fire safety. Guarantee you will find a difference. I work in one of the top five most affluent counties in the country. Virtually evey fire death we have occurs in a home with no smoke detectors. As I have said here a dozen times...if you are truly serious about reducing fire deaths and fire loss, start a campaign to educate the public about smoke detectors. Spend the money to buy detectors for people who can't afford them and then go put them in for them. Will you get everybody? Of course not, but you will start reducing your fires and your deaths overnight.

    Marketing? One simple example is Community Policing. Cops go out into the community and get close to the people. They take their toys out and show them to the kids. They play ball with the kids. They work with Senior Citizens. They are out there.

    What do most (most, not all) FD's do? They hide in the kitchen behind the big roll up door until the hook goes in. Then they ride out, do what they have to do, and back in and shut the doors until the next one. Hell, the fire houses are in the friggin' hoods. You are already close to the people.

    What's wrong with community-based fire service? I know, I know, "We're only volunteer and we don't have enough time and we are so overworked and there are so many regulations, wah wah, wah." You either want the support to get recognition and funding or you don't. Make the choice.
    George...

    Here in Massachusetts, the Fire Service is pro-active when it comes to public fire education in the schools...it's called the SAFE Program. Here's our logo...


    The SAFE program sends specially trained fire personnel into the schools to teach fire safety. The program works...we have had two younfg heroes in my community recognized by the State Fire Marshal and over a hundred "young heroes" statewide. Funding for SAFE comes from the tobacco tax, since many fatal residential fires are caused by careless smoking. The grants are distributed by the Department of Fire Services to career, volunteer and paid on call fire departments.

    I do agree that any fire department has to take a pro-active stance when it comes to public relations. It works for the PD, why reinvent the wheel?
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  25. #25
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    Thanks for slapping me around a little guys, I needed it. Let me start by saying that I didn't want to start a FD vs PD thing, I don't blame the PD for the situation they are in versus what we are in, (I blame the city council mostly and us a little). I also forgot about the rural situation where there were a lot more fire trucks than cruisers on any given night (that's where I started). As to the loss of a cop from the 100,000 program, I can't say one specificly, but I seem to remember the town my folks live in passed up on the money because they knew it would run out and they could not pay for the extra officer beyond that date.

    Community Firefighting... now there is a good issue to get on. Here's the dilema, I'd love to take the truck out and ride around, maybe get a crew together and go eat out, in uniform, and show it off to the public. The problem is that there is always a bunch of complaints when ever we do something like that to the effect of "that's my tax money you're wasting joy riding around town!" We even get that when we do official driver's training "why's the fire engine wasting my tax money going around the block six times a night?"

    So what's the answer to the nay sayers, how do you convince people that "joy riding" is a good thing? Do you just say screw them, let them complain? We do some great work with the kids in town, fire truck rides as prizes for safety contests, open houses, but there is a limit to how far we can push the envolope before the complaints begin to roll in.

    In the meanwhile, I hope the grant evaluator found that C note I left in the envolope

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