CCAASE funding supports numerous community assistance and art and special events organizations in Telluride including the Telluride Invitational Balloon Rally in early June. The board met Wednesday for its annual grant allocation discussion, recommendations that will next be considered by Telluride Town Council at it Tuesday meeting. (Planet file photo)

Telluride’s Commission for Community Assistance, Arts and Special Events (CCAASE) met Wednesday morning for what is arguably its most important meeting of the year — the awarding of town grant monies for numerous nonprofits working in either the arts- or community assistance-based realms. In all, CCAASE will send total recommendations to Telluride Town Council of $311,780 for community assistance and $230,000 for arts and special events. Council will consider the recommendations at its meeting Tuesday.

“Once approvals are granted, staff will work on the funding agreements and getting the money to the organization,” said parks & recreation director Stephanie Jaquet following the board’s unanimous approval of the allocations.

The road to the annual January allocation discussion begins in late summer of each year when nonprofits submit grant requests to the town — the parks and recreation department manages the applications and serves as staff liaison for CCAASE. Many of the same organizations submit applications year after year, names as familiar as Mountainfilm, Ah Haa School for the Arts, Rainbow Preschool or Telluride Institute. The sole newcomer this year was Seas of Trees under the community assistance category.

A number of nonprofits missed the application deadline and were deemed ineligible by CCAASE to have their applications considered. Shut out this year were Mountain Sprouts, a child care facility; Pinhead Institute, which works in STEM education; and Telluride Education Foundation, whose mission it is to raise money to “invest in the enrichment of K-12 education in the Telluride school district,” according to its website. Those three organizations were awarded a total of $20,480 in 2020, money that was, this time around, available to be granted elsewhere.

A significant absence for 2021 was that of TCTV. The 36-year-old public access nonprofit had struggled in recent years having lost its cable channel and studio spaces, in addition to experiencing a shrinking donor pool. Even its role as the broadcaster of government meetings was rendered moot with the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic and the switch to Zoom for conducting meetings.

“Our day had come,” the nonprofit’s then-executive director Peter Kenworthy told the Daily Planet in October, calling the organization’s struggles an “uphill battle.” 

Telluride TV’s 2020 allocation of  $35,540 was also rolled back into the grant pool. CCAASE was its largest source of funding. With the additional money freed up by the loss of Telluride TV, CCAASE had an extra $56,020 to grant.

Two organizations returned their 2020 allocations when COVID forced cancellation of events or programs — Balloon Festival, whose early June gathering was among the first of a summer-long series of cancellations, and SPARKY Productions, a performing arts nonprofit with a focus on social issues. Those two organizations returned nearly100 percent of their funding, save for a small amount Balloon officials withheld for advertising to inform the public of its cancellation.

In all, there were 16 applicants for arts and special events (up one from last year when Telluride Chamber Music Festival returned for 2021 funding), and 27 applicants for community assistance, down from last year’s 31.

The CCAASE board by Wednesday had already submitted their individual allotments after reviewing each grant application, figures that were averaged out by parks and rec staff and submitted on spreadsheets for the two funding categories. All that was left for board members to do was to advocate for more — or less — money for various organizations.

“The applicants’ averages were adjusted reflecting the available funding amounts,” explained park & rec projects coordinator John Wontrobski. “Then if you (the board) want to change anything by more than $250 — either increase or decrease — you just need to give a reason (using) one of the nine criteria.”

Some of those criteria include compliance with CCAASE grant guidelines, participation level of its board, outreach efforts and number of participants, and, only for arts organizations, economic impact for the Town of Telluride.

On the community support side, 12 organizations received full requests, including KOTO (San Miguel Educational Fund), San Miguel Resource Center, Mountain Munchkins and Rainbow Preschool. Members agreed with board member and council liaison, DeLanie Young that child care and educational organizations be granted their respective full requests.

“I'm going to advocate … that anything associated with child care and education gets their full 100 percent, especially if they're getting less than they got last year,” she said. “Even a difference of $85 could mean extra PPE for the school.”

On the arts and special events category, six organizations received full requested amounts, including Telluride Theatre, Ah Haa School for the Arts, Telluride AIDS Benefit and the Sheridan Arts Foundation, among others, with the balloon fest and Telluride Choral Society awarded nearly 100 percent allocations.

Each category’s allocations received unanimous support from the board, whose members include Young, Sasha Sullivan, Pepper Raper, Jill O’Dell, Kathrine Warren and Amy Seiving. Alternates Elena Levin and Matt Lynch partook in the discussion, but with a full board present, did not vote.

The board also unanimously reinstated Sullivan and Raper as its chair and vice chair, respectively.

Town Council’s consideration of CCAASE’s recommendations is agendized for 1:40 p.m. Tuesday, but Young cautioned it could be delayed, as council has a Planning & Zoning/HARC call-up scheduled for earlier in the meeting that could potentially run over its allotted time.