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Elizabeth Nelson's City Council Blog

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I write a City Council newsletter with my summary of agenda items coming before City Council. Sign up to receive it first via email, or read it here later on this blog.

Prioritizing American Rescue Plan Funds

On June 7, 2021, City Council unanimously approved a resolution, directing the then City Administrator, Tom Crawford, to “recommend and prioritize the allocation of the State and Local Fiscal Recovery Funds” and report to Council before October 1, 2021.

https://a2gov.legistar.com/LegislationDetail.aspx?ID=4970459&GUID=030FC7C4-355F-46EA-A7DE-E5F4F25AB589


I cosponsored this resolution with Council Member Ramlawi and it included the following language:


Whereas, The Coronavirus State and Local Fiscal Recovery Funds are eligible to:

* Support public health expenditures;

* Address negative economic impacts caused by the public health emergency;

* Replace lost public sector revenue;

* Invest in water, sewer, and broadband infrastructure; and

* Other activities as identified in the Act.


In response to that resolution, a memo of recommendations (dated October 1, 2021) was prepared by Acting City Administrator John Fournier, and included as a communication on the agenda of our October 4, 2021 meeting:

https://a2gov.legistar.com/LegislationDetail.aspx?ID=5158268&GUID=86E594B0-B3AA-4F8C-BF98-F84C6800DE73


TIMELINE


June 7, 2021

  • City Council asks then City Administrator Tom Crawford to recommend and prioritize the allocation of federal recovery funds.


October 1, 2021

  • Acting City Administrator John Fournier emails a memo of recommendations to City Council.

  • Council receives a formal written complaint against John Fournier, alleging harassment, hostile work environment, blatant discrimination, retaliation and illegal directives.


October 4, 2021

  • Fournier’s memo of spending recommendations is included as a communication on the Council meeting agenda. It includes a proposed resolution and deadline for final decisions: December 6, 2021.

  • Council receives over forty pages of documentation related to the formal complaint filed against Acting City Administrator John Fournier. Council votes unanimously to direct an independent investigation of Fournier. (NOTE: a majority of Council rejects any paid administrative leave for Fournier.)


October 18, 2021 (anticipated)

  • Interim City Administrator, Milton Dohoney, Jr. will officially begin work for the City.

  • Council will consider resolution DC-2 to move forward with recommendations from Acting City Administrator John Fournier and direct “public engagement strategy to aid in the prioritization of the ARP funds.”


December 6, 2021 (anticipated)

  • Final approval of spending recommendations for federal recovery funds.


RECOMMENDATIONS

This week’s agenda item DC-2 refers to recommendations for spending $24,182,630 federal recovery funds, but the memo of specific recommendations is not included in the Legistar listing. As noted above, these recommendations were communicated to Council in a memo dated October 1, 2021.


Link to DC-2:

https://a2gov.legistar.com/LegislationDetail.aspx?ID=5160594&GUID=AFA44345-7B18-41F6-B1BE-EBA065EF64C2


Link to memo of recommendations:

https://a2gov.legistar.com/View.ashx?M=F&ID=9861463&GUID=DE3FB842-7FA6-40A6-9315-C3D2DC4B54C5



Below is a summary of the recommendations:


$5,806,173

Galvanized pipe replacement to accelerate total removal of lead pipe in the City of Ann Arbor.


$4,000,000

Bike facility at Miller and Catherine, including a $2.5 million bike lane and $1.5 million in traffic calming.


$3,000,000

Funding to make Fire Station 4 carbon-neutral with geothermal heating and cooling, solar panels, and architectural design, as well as make it ‘gender neutral.”


$7,000,000

Installing solar arrays on City facilities. (Estimated total savings of $380,000 per year.)


$9,500,000

Implementation of the Vision Zero Plan including:

improvements to Eisenhower Park Path

Border-to-to-Border trail linkages at Fuller Road

City-wide speed study

Lane reconfigurations at S. Main, Packard, Earhart, and Green road

Curb bump outs at five locations

Public education and enforcement

Protected bike lanes

Bike boulevards on Washington and Elmwood

Green pavement at intersections

Expanded bike parking

ADA accessible call buttons at pedestrian signals

Bicycle detecting traffic signals

Safety street lights at three planned corridors

Crosswalk upgrades


$2,000,000

Community policing, unarmed response. Funding for new data systems and outside training and resources, and funding to build officer capacity and engage with third party service providers and non-profits.


$1,000,000

Homeless transitional housing. This would fund and manage a 4+ unit rental property in partnership with Housing Access of Washtenaw County and Avalon Housing.


$3,500,000

Acquisition and development of city-owned properties for affordable housing, including 2000 S. Industrial.


$2,000,000

Acquisition/renovation of a city owned property for use as a new election center, to accommodate to store, process, and count absentee ballots and house voting equipment.


$2,300.000

Pilot program for Universal Basic Income (UBI) to provide one hundred (100) selected families with $500 per month for three years. It would also fund a program administrator and administrative costs.


$1,000,000

Coordinated funding support for local social services programs.


Note that the memo explains: The total dollar amount of recommended projects is $41,106,173, or $16.9 million more than what we have been allocated by the federal government.



ANOTHER EXAMPLE - PITTSFIELD TOWNSHIP

As a point of comparison, Pittsfield Township recently released their own plan for use of their (much smaller) amount of ARP funds. Pittsfield Township anticipates receiving $4,073,805 and in 2021/2022, they plan to budget it in this way:

https://www.mlive.com/news/ann-arbor/2021/10/pittsfield-township-leaders-have-4m-in-federal-covid-stimulus-heres-how-theyll-spend-it.html


$294,500

Mast arm infrastructure project


$210,000

Streetlight projects


$2,500,000

US12 Sewer project


$1,000,000

Buildings infrastructure project


$69,506

Parks infrastructure project


In anticipation of receiving $4,073,805 in ARP funds, Pittsfield Township has designated spending of $4,074,006 (a difference of $201).



DC-2: THE PLAN

Agenda item DC-2 explains that "a robust public engagement process is essential to finally prioritize these funds"


Also from DC-2, the City Administrator is directed "to carry out a public engagement strategy to aid in the prioritization of the ARP funds"


In questions to the agenda, I asked about the origins of the Ann Arbor recommendations, whether they were reviewed by our Chief Financial Officer (CFO), and what is anticipated in terms of “public engagement.” In answer to my question about public engagement, I received this response:

Final plans have not yet been determined. Preliminary planning discussions with our Public Engagement experts include completing the Public Engagement Toolkit, Community Conversations, and the use of various survey tools. If City Council has specific requests for the public engagement plan, those recommendations can be incorporated into the final plan.

Also from DC-2: "City Council directs the City Administrator to provide a final report on the prioritization and spending plan for the ARP dollars to the City Council not later than December 6, 2021."



MOVING FORWARD

I do not envy the task presented to our new Interim City Administrator, Mr. Dohoney, on what will be his very first official day working for our City. He is asked to carry out an as-yet-undetermined "robust" public engagement strategy on spending recommendations that exceed available funds by nearly $17 million. We ask him to accomplish this in the seven weeks between now and December 6th, with help from Assistant City Administrator Fournier: the person who drafted these recommendations and is currently under investigation for alleged harassment, hostile work environment, blatant discrimination, retaliation, and illegal directives.


A hurried timeline for public engagement, prioritization, and allocation is remarkable, given the relatively long timeline permitted by federal guidelines. The much longer federal timeline requirement was communicated to all of Council on October 1st: These funds must be ‘encumbered’ by December 31, 2024, and totally spent by December 31, 2026.


A point of comparison: Washtenaw County expects to receive just over $71 million in federal rescue funds. For public engagement regarding allocation of those funds, the Board of Commissioners conducted a total of ten meetings, starting the end of July. To read more about the County’s plan and process, see:

https://www.washtenaw.org/3427/Washtenaw-Rescue-Plan


I have the opportunity to ask more questions at our public meeting on Monday. If you have any questions that you would like answered, I encourage you to send them to me, your own Council representatives, or all of Council at CityCouncil@a2gov.org