The city of Cambridge will be applying for a grant through the National League of Cities to fund a portable emergency operations center and an electric vehicle charging unit.

During the Cambridge City Council meeting Dec. 21, Assistant City Administrator Evan Vogel explained the National League of Cities is in the process of accepting and reviewing grant applications for its Community Resilience grant program. Vogel explained the grant application was done by himself and Deputy Fire Chief Will Pennings.

Following discussion, the council approved a motion to allow Vogel to apply for the grant.

According to the National League of Cities, the grant is in place to help cities with a population of 5,000 or more to improve “City plans and programs designed to increase community resilience and connectivity in advance of climate shocks and other events can save lives and reduce recovery costs. These efforts can take many forms including community engagement, regional collaboration, reducing resident vulnerability to climate impacts, or capacity building for staff and elected officials.”

Finalists for the grant applications will be contacted for interviews in January and award notifications will be sent by Feb. 12.

Vogel explained the city is seeking the grant to fund a portable emergency operations center in order to improve the city’s ability to respond in the event that a disaster, such as a train derailment, fire or tornado, makes access to Cambridge City Hall and the primary emergency operations center impossible.

He said the lion’s share of the grant would be used to fund five Microsoft Surface computers fitted with all the necessary software and access to city files; a portable color printer; a portable projector; a portable, lockable storage cabinet to house all hardware; and additional storage containers for a set of emergency protocol paperwork, incident response binders, highly visible vests, flashlights, and any other safety equipment deemed necessary.

“The portable EOC would be kept off-site at a location such as the library or public works office,” Vogel said. “If awarded, this would be an immediate upgrade to the city’s emergency response capabilities. Additionally, it would provide the ability to run emergency response drills off-site, under the assumption that City Hall was inaccessible.”

Vogel explained the remaining grant funds would be used to fund the installation of an electric vehicle charging unit. He said this is partially paired with the grant that the city is considering applying for through East Central Energy.

“The second component of this has two purposes: The first is that with the remaining money from the grant we could pay for the addition of another amenity for our residents, that would require very little maintenance on behalf of the city,” Vogel said. “The second is that it improves our chances of receiving the award for this grant. Past recipients of this grant have focused almost exclusively on environmental issues. By including a component of green infrastructure in this proposal we add a benefit to the city at little cost and dramatically improve our chance to receive this award.”

Pennings was supportive of the grant application and appreciative of Vogel’s work on it.

“I just want to lend support and appreciate Evan’s efforts in this, both identifying a grant opportunity and working so hard and diligently to put this forward in a timely manner,” Pennings said. “I think it’s both great to support an off-site EOC in case something did happen to our EOC and also to just kind of start building that total infrastructure for the city to be prepared moving forward. As we’ve worked really hard to build infrastructure over the years, I think it’s important to look at alternatives for infrastructure for people’s wants and needs moving down the road, so I’m just fully in support of the projects — both the EV charging station and the portable EOC.”

If the city of Cambridge received a grant award through the National League of Cities, the organization would provide $10,000 in grant funding to the city along with customized support; training and professional development opportunities; mentorship opportunities; access to partners; and peer-learning opportunities.

Quotes received by Vogel indicate that approximately $7,000 would be used to outfit a portable emergency operations center and $3,000 would be used to install an electric vehicle charging station at either Cambridge City Park or in a downtown parking lot near Main Street.

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