A sum of $1.2 million sounds substantial, but when beginning a list of the needs and wants of a community, it’s evident that the demand exceeds the supply.
The figure listed above - $1,228,551 to be precise - is the total that the City of Denison will receive from the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA).
That legislation allots $350 billion to state, local, territorial and tribal governments to respond to the economic fallout from the coronavirus pandemic and to strengthen pandemic recovery efforts.
The $350 billion is split up among categories of governmental entities.
During his report at Tuesday’s city council meeting, City Manager/City Engineer Terry Crawford gave an update on the work he has done to look into the types of projects that would be eligible under the regulations of ARPA.
Crawford has spoken with Denison Municipal Utility (DMU) officials and county officials about teaming up on the use of funds.
DMU has asked about the possibility of using some of the funds for a water infrastructure project for the northeast part of Denison, Crawford said. DMU, which is part of the city, plans to build a new water tower and new water mains.
“That is directly related to some of the uses in here,” he said, nodding to information about the use of ARPA funds.
He said he met with Jean Heiden, a county supervisor, who provided a list of possible uses for the county’s ARPA funding.
The county has received $3.267 million.
Crawford listed two programs the supervisors are interested in combining with the city.
One is a new facility for county public health. Discussion at an August 24 supervisors’ meeting was that the building housing public health (the Annex on North Main near city hall) is too small and inadequate. Crawford said public health would meet the intent of ARPA.
The second of the two items to partner with is a wellness center, which is currently being studied by a wellness committee in Denison.
Crawford said that use is not as clear to him, based on his reading through the ARPA documents.
“I think it might qualify under public health and wellness in that it could provide a more open space for recreation for kids and others; elderly, for example, on a walking track. You could keep your distance. In a different type of facility people could be more bunched together,” he explained.
Following are other uses of the ARPA funds that were mentioned by Crawford and city council members.
• The replacement of the pervious pavers next to the buildings on the south side of the safety zone (14th Street) parking lot. The pavers were installed as part of a bioretention cell project in 2017; they have been deteriorating since that time. Crawford said the tops of the pavers don’t stand up to the environment they’re in. The pavers will be replaced with a narrow, continuous drain located above a corrugated pipe with holes in the bottom. The project would be eligible under one of the provisions of ARPA to develop green technology for storm water, Crawford said.
• Kids’ Kastle at Washington Park. “We’ve known for quite some time that Kids’ Kastle needs a lot of help,” Crawford said. “That’s another area that we’re thinking we might be eligible to spend some of this money because it’s an open space for kids; they can keep their distance and at the same time get their recreation.”
• Affordable housing. “You all know we have that need,” he said. “It (ARPA) discusses making affordable housing more accessible.” He said housing is especially needed for households in the low- to moderate-income range.
• Broadband – improving internet to the underserved and unserved. Through discussion it was pointed out that this is more directed to uptown businesses rather than the community as a whole. “It’s for installing a fiber (optics line) like we have around town but we didn’t have enough money to hook everybody on to it,” Crawford said.
Councilman Corey Curnyn asked if ARPA funds could be used to purchase housing lots.
“One of the biggest hurdles for the housing committee is obtaining a lot. Could this be used, hypothetically, for purchasing a lot or purchasing lots for the Iowa Prison Industries homes (the Homes for Iowa program) or something like that?” Curnyn asked.
Crawford said he could check into that, and Beth Vogt, a member of the audience, said State Auditor Rob Sand’s office can be called to check on the eligibility of projects under ARPA.
Curnyn later asked if funds could be used for a splash pad at the aquatic center. He pointed out that this was looked into a number of years ago. He said the way it was structured is not the way Dow City did it. The cost given at that time was not something the city could afford.
The council, mayor and city administrators decided that the discussion about uses of ARPA funds should be continued at the next council planning session. The planning session has been scheduled to take place immediately after the October 19 council meeting.
Curnyn said, “If we put this on the planning session, then we brainstorm and that way we can be transparent and let the taxpayers give their input on what they feel are the needs.”
“I would like this to keep evolving; we have to in order to get this figured out,” Crawford commented. “I mean I’m sure we can get it spent, but spend it on eligible projects.”
The total allotted to the city by ARPA is $1,228,551. Of that amount, $609,461 has already been delivered. The city will receive the remaining $619,090 in July 2022.
City officials have as much as a couple years to decide how to use the funds and said they would like public input. The deadline to report how the funds will be used is December 31, 2024. The deadline to use the funds is December 31, 2026. If not used by that time, the city has to return unspent funds.