How will Arcata spend a $4.4 million windfall?

Mad River Union

ARCATA – Arcata has a money problem: how to spend a $4.4 million bag of cash that fell into its lap. The City Council will ponder the enviable problem at a special meeting not yet scheduled, and there is no shortage of ways to spend the money. 

On March 11, President Biden signed into law the Federal American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) bill, including $350 billion in one-time federal funds given directly to state, local, territorial and tribal governments. 

The City of Arcata’s share of the funding is $4,409,087, according to a staff report. The intended use of the funds is to meet pandemic response needs and rebuild a stronger, more equitable economy as the country recovers.

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The matter was briefly considered at Wednesday's City Council meeting, where it was decided to hold a special meeting to set spending priorities.

There are specific categories and timelines for the funds’ use. The four eligible categories of funding:

1. To respond to the public health emergency or its negative economic impacts, including assistance to households, small businesses, and nonprofits, or aid to impacted industries such as tourism, travel and hospitality;

2. To respond to workers performing essential work during the COVID-19 public health emergency by providing premium pay to eligible workers;

3. For the provision of government services to the extent of the reduction in revenue due to the COVID-19 public health emergency relative to revenues collected in the most recent full fiscal year prior to the emergency; and

4. To make necessary investments in water, sewer or broadband infrastructure.

Top staff recommendations are: 

1. Valley West Neighborhood Support: $217,500. Three years’ support to expand on the grass roots work of Comunidad Unida del Norte de Arcata (CUNA) focused on community health, business support, neighborhood park events, community space/facility development

2. Radio Connectivity: $550,000. Updating the City’s radios and associated equipment. A two-year lease will be paid off as well as expanding interoperability to other departments.

3. Arcata Economic Recovery/Beautification Fund: $150,000. Beautification fund – $25,000 to focus on beautifying the G and H street corridor connecting HSU to the Plaza. This would be outside of normal maintenance funds and would focus on sustainable efforts. Arcata Arts and Cultural Plan Implementation – $40,000 used to launch city utility and key dilapidated visual areas with murals, sculptures and art. 

4. Recruitment of key reduced personnel: $45,000. The city has key vacancies from the pandemic including a building official, public safety staff and maintenance workers. These funds would be used to hire complete focused recruitment efforts online and through recruitment firms for specific positions to rebuild city services.

5. Mobile Intervention Services Teams (MIST) and Crime Prevention Specialist: $1,200,000. The City has one year of grant funding to hire 32 hours of Mobile Intervention Service Team members (MIST) support to respond to mental health calls that come through the City’s 911 system and work in the community when they are not on a call. These funds would expand coverage and ensure four years of service. This would also fund a non-sworn prevention position that would support MIST, Juvenile Diversion, CERT, Community Ambassadors, Neighborhood and business Watch, neighborhood clean ups, and additional community based public safety programs.

6. Arcata House Partnership: $400,000. To provide operational assistance for eligible programs and services; and assist in temporary shelter efforts.

7. Economic Development Recovery Fund/Grant Program: $500,000. Establish an economic development recovery fund or grant program to assist businesses in developing COVID-19 safe operations/facilities, including outdoor dining

8. Fiber/Broadband Connectivity: $180,000 (conduit and fiber). Internet and phone service connectivity between City Hall and the Corporation Yard via wireless point-to-point, above-ground antennas is often unreliable and experiencing signal issues due to years of tree growth on non-City owned properties. With the fiber companies now doing local installations, the city has a unique opportunity to run underground fiber to secure this connection.

9. Waterline extension along Boyd Road: $150,000. This was originally part of Boyd Road sewer project, however was elminated dur to budget constraints. Ultimately the city will need to extend water to properties along Boyd Road that wish to annex.

10. Support departments to fully fund staff positions frozen during pandemic (per year cost): $550,000. Maintenance Crew Leader (Streets), $91,380; Maintenance Worker Parks, $74,811; Recreation Coordinator, $83,730; Community Development Specialist, $90,770; Police Officers (2) $208, 037.

11. Recognition and compensation for essential City staff during the pandemic: TBD: Recognition for the dedication of City staff who provided continuity of essential City services throughout the duration of the pandemic and ensured the continuation of health and safety of residents and visitors.

12. City Hall Heating and Ventilation, $130,000. Conversion of the Southwest side of City Hall to all electric heating and increased ventilation per the City Hall conversion plan.

Further, the city has several deferred maintennace projects and the need to extend water and sewer to several properties such as Happy Valley, Little Lakes, West End Road and Aldergrove to support development.

A host of other projects are less eligible, but could be considered:

• The Carlson Park Improvement Project, $157,000: This would fund two years of community ambassadors to actively greet city/park users and identify visitors in order to provide directions, information, city information or recommendations. They help keep our core business areas clean through trash pick-up and monitoring public spaces. 

Information Technology Audit  to evaluate the city's IT security, backup, control: $120,000.

• Various Capital Improvement projects. 

The first distribution of $2,204,543 has been deposited. The City expects the second and final distribution to occur in June of 2022. The City has until Dec. 31, 2024 to encumber the funds.

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