Flint, MI– “What does your perfect neighborhood look like?”

That’s the question Council Vice President Allie Herkenroder asked a group of about 15 mostly senior Flint residents gathered inside of the Brennan Senior Center on Jan. 18.

“What does it look like? What do the houses look like? What does it smell like? What does it sound like? Is there a park? Are there families? Are there children? Are there different activities to do?”

Herkenroder was hosting a town hall, a portion of which was dedicated to brainstorming a vision for how to use the American Rescue Plan Act funds the city has been allocated.

In March of 2021, the city learned that it would be receiving $94.7 million dollars in COVID-19 relief as part of a $1.9 trillion economic stimulus package intended to aid the country in recovering from the pandemic. 

On Jan. 11, 2022, the city council voted to approve a one-year contract with a compliance firm to help spend the funds properly according to the federal rules which were finalized the week before. 

A resident writes a list of things they would want in their dream neighborhood at the Brennan Senior Center in Flint, Mich. on Jan. 18, 2022. Seventh Ward City Councilwoman Allie Herkenroder hosted a town hall to discuss the American Rescue Plan Act funds Flint is receiving and how residents may want to spend them. (KT Kanazawich | Flint Beat)

The city administration has already drafted a “bucket list” of priorities for the funds using community responses to a survey about how to spend the money, but the council and administration both want to gather more community input as they develop a spending plan.

“The thing that is the most important to me with these dollars is hearing the vision that you all have for what you want the city to look like with those dollars,” Herkenroder said. “I have my own vision, but it doesn’t matter because I’m just one person. I want to hear what the community has to say.” 

Working in groups, the attendees used markers and poster boards to list the elements that would make up their perfect neighborhood.

Newly paved streets and repaired sidewalks. Better bus stops. Better lighting. Better schools. New businesses like clothing stores and restaurants. More fun activities for people. Blight removal. Low-interest loans for homeowners.

“I want Flint to be a fun place that people want to come to,” one attendee said. “People want to come here from Detroit, Saginaw, not just drive through, but stop in Flint and spend some money.”

After about twenty minutes, Herkenroder stopped the brainstorming session and said she’d collect their lists, and study the final rules to see how the funds may be able to apply to their visions. 

This was just one of what will be multiple meetings to gather community input regarding the ARPA funds. On Dec. 1, 2021, the council voted to hold four community meetings in each quadrant of the city, but they have not yet been scheduled.

Amy Diaz

Amy Diaz is a journalist hailing from St. Petersburg, FL. She has written for multiple local newspapers in her hometown before becoming a full-time reporter for Flint Beat. When she’s not writing you...

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