Flint, MI – After much deliberation, Flint City Council approved a plan for the city’s American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funds at its Oct. 24, 2022 meeting. The council also voted on several grants, budget amendments, and resolutions to extend a contract with a consulting firm and recognize November as homeless awareness month.
Here’s an overview of what they voted on:
Approved an allocation plan for Flint’s American Rescue Plan Act funding
An ARPA allocation plan was first presented last week by the council’s ad hoc ARPA committee members Judy Priestley and Ladel Lewis. During that meeting, the two outlined proposed changes to Mayor Sheldon Neeley’s ARPA plan, introduced in June of this year.
Flint received $94.7 million in ARPA funding to address the COVID-19 public health emergency in mid-2021. Since then, the city had spent or obligated $34,374,696 as of Oct. 24, leaving around $60.3 million in remaining funding for council to vote on this week.
According to federal law, the city’s ARPA dollars must be obligated by December 31, 2024 and spent by December 31, 2026. Otherwise, the money will need to be returned to the U.S. Department of Treasury.
The plan council approved allocates $13,735,000 for neighborhood improvement, $8,275,000 for economic development, $3,720,000 for public safety, $5,250,000 for public health, $400,000 for infrastructure, $21,122,618 for revenue replacement, $5,000,000 for contingency and $2,849,350 for administration. A little over $18 million of that collective funding will come in the form of community grants for which local organizations will be able to apply.
Lottie Ferguson, the city’s Chief Resiliency Officer, told council the city is working to create and release the community grant application online and in paper form, she did not confirm when the application would be made available.
Bringing the resolution to adopt the ARPA plan to a vote was a challenge in itself, with council members discussing the proposed plan for four hours during the Special Affairs Committee prior to the regular council meeting.
“I’m not going to vote ‘yes’ on this plan as it is,” Councilwoman Jerri-Winfrey Carter said. “I think there needs to be some amendments. One, I’d like to see money earmarked for our pregnant women. I guess that should go under [the] public health and youth development line. We have to think about our infant mortality rate here in our city. I don’t know if you guys know, but that rate is double of that in the United States.”
Winfrey-Carter identified two specific organizations helping pregnant woman in Flint–the House of Esther and the Revive Community Health Center–that she said council could allocate money to.
Other points of contention included the $3,720,000 for public safety and $5 million for home repair and improvement, both of which Councilman Eric Mays said were not enough.
Additionally, Councilwoman Tonya Burns said that she would like to see money for ambulance services—a point she also made last week—and the Flint Police Activities League (PAL).
Burns noted the plan proposed spending $750,000 under the revenue replacement category to renovate the council’s chambers in Flint City Hall. She said that some of those funds would be better spent for the PAL program.
“We need to do something for these kids. If we don’t get to them, the streets get to them. And once the streets get to them, the streets don’t let loose,” Burns said, adding that the program mentored youth and provided computer enrichment programs, football and baseball.
“I would like to see PAL be funded. If it means taking the $750,000–and those are the most uncomfortable chairs in the world out there in the audience, they are, they hurt–but I would like to see something done for our youth,” Burns said.
Burns ultimately motioned for $250,000 of the $750,000 in ARPA funds allocated for council chamber renovations be spent on the PAL program instead.
The committee voted 6-2 to approve Burns’ amendment, with council members Priestley and Winfrey-Carter voting against. Mays was removed from the Special Affairs committee meeting prior to the vote and consequently did not take part.
Before being removed, Mays claimed that some of his peers were pushing through the ARPA budget prematurely to secure a victory for Mayor Sheldon Neeley’s administration and improve his chances of being re-elected on November 8.
Council Vice President Allie Herkenroder, who was chairing the committee meeting, reminded Mays that city council is a nonpartisan body and repeatedly warned Mays to stay germane to the topic.
Mays responded by calling “some” of the council members stupid and accusing Herkenroder of racism, which resulted in him being removed from the Special Affairs meeting. However, Mays returned to vote on the ARPA plan during the regular city council meeting that followed.
The amended ARPA plan left the Special Affairs committee with a 7-1 vote. Winfrey-Carter voted no.
“Is this a perfect plan? No. Is there a perfect plan out there? Probably not,” said Council President Dennis Pfeiffer. “You’re always going to have differing opinions. I do support this as a base starting point that we can change over time.”
During the regular council meeting, the council then voted 6-0 to adopt the ARPA allocation plan, with Mays, Burns and Winfrey-Carter abstaining from the vote.
“I abstain because I definitely feel there should be amendments. There are things that have not been addressed in this ARPA plan that are crucial to residents’ everyday life,” Burns said.
In explaining their reasons for abstention, Winfrey-Carter echoed Burns’ sentiments about the plan needing amendments while Mays repeated his allegations that council members were attempting to promote Neeley’s campaign.
Councilwoman Ladel Lewis refuted Mays’ claim, saying that not only is it not true, it would be illegal for her or other council members to do so.
“Let me start by saying that it’s against the law to campaign from our elected seats,” Lewis told Flint Beat. “Whether we’re campaigning for self or we are campaigning for someone else … So regardless of whoever supports whom, it is illegal for you to use your political platform to promote a political agenda. So let’s start there with that.”
Allocated $5.25 million to Buick City Redevelopment Project
The city council also unanimously resolved to allocate $5.25 million towards Ashley Capital’s Buick City Redevelopment Project, including $3.25 million from ARPA funds.
Susan Harvey, the senior vice president of Ashley Capital, said that the site’s current owners are preparing an environmental plan with government agencies. Once that plan is completed, Harvey said, Ashley Capital will formally take ownership of the former General Motors property and begin industrial development.
Harvey estimated that the environmental plan will be completed in January of February 2023, and Ashley Capital will begin constructing their first building at the site within 60 days of closing.
Approved a budget amendment for McKinley Center repairs
The city council approved a budget amendment moving $135,000 from the Parks and Recreation Fund by 8-1 vote, with Burns voting no.
Flint’s Director of Planning and Development Suzanne Wilcox said that over $131,000 will be allocated to DTS Contracting, Inc. for repairs to the McKinley Center, with the rest as contingency for these repairs.
Approved a contract renewal with Rowe Professional Services
The city council also unanimously approved a resolution extending the city’s contract with Rowe Professional Services Company to continue its provision of comprehensive zoning services until June 30, 2023, and to add $80,000, for a total contract amount of $260,000.
Wilcox said that Rowe Professional Services has provided zoning support to the city since 2020, including some assistance with the city’s marijuana ordinance.
Postponed resolution on a budget amendment
Council voted 0-8 to authorize city officials to transfer funds for the fiscal year 2023 operating budget of the city of Flint. This resolution first appeared on an Oct. 19 Finance Committee agenda. It was postponed at that time due to a lack of quorum.
Voted to accept three grants and proclaim November as homeless awareness month
The city council voted 9-0 to approve four other resolutions, including:
- Proclaim November 2022 as homeless awareness month in the City of Flint
- Accept the Flint Lead Exposure Registry grant from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services in the amount of $18,315.83 and $19,579.15 for the five-year total.
- Accept the National Sexual Assault Kit grant from the US Department of Justice in the amount of $2.5 million.
- Accept the “22 Office of Justice Programs’ Community-Based Violence Intervention and Prevention” grant in the amount of $1.5 million.