City nears final allocations of ARP funds

When the American Rescue Plan Act was signed into law in March 2021, many local officials called it a “once in a lifetime” opportunity to bring about substantial and permanent change for local residents.

Among its various provisions, the federal stimulus package provided funding to local governments to help communities recover from the COVID-19 pandemic.

For the City of Davis, the allocation was $19.7 million, which must be encumbered by December 2024 and fully expended by December 2026.

By March 2022, City Council, guided by a subcommittee of Mayor Lucas Frerichs and Vice Mayor Will Arnold and following numerous town hall meetings, had allocated most of the city’s ARP funds, keeping approximately $2 million dollars in reserve.

So where did this money go?

The largest allocation – $6.4 million – went to social service programs, many of which provide services to the homeless, including $1 million for Paul’s Place, a vertical village of tiny houses on H Street that is expected to open in early 2023.

Paul’s Place, Deputy City Manager Kelly Stachowicz told City Council on Tuesday, “will significantly improve our ability in the community to serve people who need supportive services, permanent supportive housing, who are in transitional housing or in need of emergency accommodation beds”.

An additional $1.6 million in ARP funds has been allocated to various other homeless services, including shelters, respite care and veterinary services for homeless pets.

The latter program is the Mercer Veterinary Clinic/Davis Pet Advocacy and Wellness program, which works with homeless people to ensure their pets are up to date with vaccinations and general health care. The city will provide $12,000 per year for three years for the program.

Other social service programs receiving funds from the city’s ARP pot include Crisis Now ($1.7 million), Yolo Crisis Nursery ($500,000), Adult Day Health Center expansion ($225,000) and more.

In addition to the city’s ARP stipends, many of these social service programs have also received county funding, including Paul’s Place, Crisis Now and more.

Meanwhile, nearly $800,000 in ARP funds were used to start the city’s new Department of Housing and Human Services. A department manager has been hired and recruitment is underway for an affordable housing manager, Stachowicz said Tuesday.

Under the category of “essential municipal services,” the council allocated nearly $4.7 million in ARP funds, including revenue backfilling, the hiring of three firefighters to staff a newly approved ladder truck , replacement and expansion of a portable building at City Hall and replacement of public radios and safety equipment.

For that last point, Stachowicz told the board on Tuesday that about “half a million dollars worth of public safety radios” have been ordered and have started arriving.

“This is very expensive, but extremely critical and crucial equipment for our law enforcement and firefighters.”

————

Improvements to downtown Davis will also be funded by ARP dollars.

Just over $1.8 million has been allocated for everything from downtown security cameras to weekly cleaning until the new downtown streets crew is up and running.

The streets team – which involves homeless residents cleaning up high-visibility areas in exchange for case management, employment services and a stipend – will be paid for by cannabis funds and a grant from county counterpart.

ARP funds also went to the Davis Downtown Business Association for the “Thursdays in The Davisphere” concert series, the trimming of E Street Plaza, improvements to the Hunt Boyer porch and more.

A key allocation was for CPTED (Crime Prevention Through Environmental Design) grants – $50,000 in total. More than 40 downtown businesses received assessments from the Davis Police Department that resulted in suggestions on how these businesses could make improvements to reduce their vulnerability (think lighting, landscaping, etc. )

Companies are now applying for ARP funds to make these physical improvements.

“We’re excited to see where this takes us,” Stachowicz said.

An additional $1.2 million will be used for downtown infrastructure and community space improvements, including beautification, landscaping and trees, and more, though those funds are pending. adoption of the downtown-specific plan, expected later this year.

Among other ARP-funded projects elsewhere in the community, there are two that Stachowicz says are “progressing well.”

One is Playfields Park, where the city is replacing grass and making ADA improvements to the area and the second is the bike pump track in Community Park “which has long been discussed and put on hold due to COVID”, Stachowicz said.

“We are preparing to publish the tender documents for this project later this month, so we believe we are progressing quite well on these two projects.”

In sum, the renovation of Playfield Park received $990,000 and the bike pump track $600,000.

————

Finally, June concluded the Healthy Davis Together testing program, which the city has kept operational for the first half of 2022, thanks to more than $1.5 million in ARP funds allocated by the city.

Approximately $430,000 of this allocation remains unused.

Given the uncertainty of the pandemic, the board also created a COVID Response Reserve of over $385,000 last March that remains available.

Bottom line – of the $19.7 million the city originally received in ARP funds, just under $2.5 million remains unallocated or in a reserve.

On Tuesday evening, the board struck a new subcommittee to work with staff to recommend to the full board how best to allocate these remaining funds. This subcommittee will be made up of Arnold and Councilor Josh Chapman.

Summarizing the staff presentation to council on Tuesday night, City Manager Mike Webb noted that through the ARP funds received, some “very catalytic projects” are being funded.

“Paul’s Place, for example…it’s kind of a game-changing project for the Davis community and the people we serve,” Webb said.

He also noted that the deadline to spend ARP funds puts city staff in a unique position.

“It’s unusual for us to be in front of you saying, ‘We have to spend it all,'” he told council members.

“We’re so in the mindset in terms of budgets…and having fiscal policies that are really trying to have minimum reserve levels for that rainy day.

“Well, these funds are meant to help make up for that rainy day, many days, that we had (during) COVID,” Webb said. “And it’s necessary to spend every penny of the ARP funds that have been allocated to us. If we don’t, it comes back, and I think that’s something we don’t want to be in that position.

— Contact Anne Ternus-Bellamy at [email protected] Follow her on Twitter at @ATernusBellamy.

James V. Hayes