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10:08 PM Mon, Oct. 22nd

WACOG worker helps link communities with grant money

Jeanne Caisse is a Community Development Specialist for the Western Arizona Council of Governments (WACOG) and she deals with a large territory.

"I say is runs from Utah to Mexico," she explains when she outlines the projects and programs covered by the agency.

Established in 1968, the boundaries of WACOG cover the county lines of Mohave County and Yuma until 1983 when Yuma was split and La Paz County joined the rolls of Arizona counties as the fifteenth.

Included in the voluntary association of local governments with the three counties are: Kingman, Parker, Somerton, Wellton and the City of Yuma as well as Lake Havasu City, San Luis, Bullhead City, Colorado City and Quartzite.

WACOG now numbers 13 members including three counties and ten communities.

Caisse has been with WACOG for the last six years.

She came to the organization after working as a grant administrator for Bullhead City.

One of her specialties is applying for grants which the federal government funds for approved programs through the county to varying entities in the various communities.

The entities can be the fire department or water company, as was the case recently in Golden Valley, or it can be a senior citizen center.

In the most recent case, however, the county supervisors agreed to divert all of the block grant funds to the senior citizen center in Lake Havasu City.

Caisse explains that she is must act only in an advisory capacity.

"I tell the communities that these funds (block grants) do not always satisfy the total project costs.

My job is to help them look in the direction and identify other moneys available to fund something," she said.

"Basically, my job is to make sure the method of distribution is followed also that the method is approved by the federal government and that the communities whose turn it is obey the federal regulations."

She is working now to help the Mohave County Community College develop the training facility for those going into public service including the state Fish and Game Department as well as police and fire departments and the Department of Public Safety and is expected to include several American Indian tribes.

She says a plot of land near the college has been earmarked for the training facility.

Caisse was scheduled to spend the next day in Quartzsite for the dedication of sludge dewatering equipment for the community.

Alan Steven, executive director of the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) was in attendance for the ceremony.

In addition to the CDBG program, WACOG also hosts the Area Agency on Aging which acts as an advocate for persons 60 and over; the Volunteer Program which provides a variety of volunteer services in the region; the Retired & Senior Citizens Program (RSVP) which provides volunteers to assist local non-profit agencies to meet their local needs; HEAD START for education, health, parent involvement and social services: Community Services Block Grants which keeps WACOG at the forefront of efforts to reduce the effects of poverty; Emergency Services; Energy Assistance which provides assistance in paying utility bills to low-income households.

Those funds are provided by DES; Weatherization/Home Repair which provides low income home owners in reducing the amount of energy used to make emergency health and safety repairs and transportation.

The department plans, implements and monitors a five year priority highway construction project federally funded in Mohave and La Paz Counties.

In other words Cassie and the other staff members of WACOG have a plenty of projects to keep them busy helping the public, projects that many people are not aware exist.

Meanwhile Cassie will keep on piling up the miles in this vast area bordering the Colorado River