SECA Commission Debates Changing Evaluation Process

The Special Events and Cultural Amenities, SECA Commission met for the first time this year.

On the docket was a discussion about a new system of objectively judging SECA grant applicants and assigning them numerical scores, a prototype of which was tested on 10 projects.

But despite the goal of being more objective, the way the commissioners scored projects varied widely – calling into question the viability and necessity of the system.

“One of the things I have concerns about, where we work harder to define certain categories in a certain way and design the application so we ask the right questions. It’ll almost lead us to a point where we will all come to the same conclusion,” said SECA Commissioner Rick Grimes.

The idea for the new system followed requests from applicants for more clarity in what they should include in their application.

The SECA Commission discussed meeting that request in another way. Possibly by better defining what they look for in a good proposal – like how feasible a project is.

“Because if we can’t articulate what feasibility is and evaluate on that process. It’s hard to explain to applicants and to city council why we made that decision on feasibility,” said SECA Commission Chairman Gary Kovener.

Another point of discussion was Ribfest, which has traditionally received over $200,000 annually to cover the cost of city services of putting on the event.

With it likely leaving the city after this year, that money would normally be available to other applicants.

But that may not be the case.

“I think the projects we looked at this year were funded just fine. I don’t think another $250,000 would have made a big difference in a lot of these projects,” said Kovener.

So there were some other ideas being floated around about what could be done with that money. With the commission potentially taking on a more active role, soliciting applications for projects they or residents want to see in town.

“This year we could say ‘we’ll put $50,000 towards … a pet project,’ and just carve it out,” said Naperville City Councilwoman Rebecca Boyd-Obarski. “Those are numbers I just pulled out of the air.”

The commission hasn’t reached a consensus on these issues and no changes are set in stone yet.

They will continue to discuss adjustments to the program at their next meeting, and anything they recommend must be approved by city council.

NCTV17 is partially funded by a grant from the SECA Program.

Naperville News 17’s Blane Erwin reports.

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