Council considers suggestions for remaining pandemic relief funds

The city of Turlock still has just over two years to decide how to spend federal pandemic relief funds and the city council continued its discussion earlier this month about exactly where those dollars should go.

The city of Turlock was notified in July 2021 that it would receive approximately $15.7 million in funds from the American Rescue Plan Act.

Unlike CARES Act funding, which was intended for local governments to use to respond to the short-term response to COVID-19, American Rescue Plan Act funds can be used by the city to help households, small businesses, non-profit organizations and industries negatively impacted economically by the pandemic. The city can also use bailout law funds to invest in water, sewer, or broadband infrastructure.

The City has already received $7,876,595 from ARPA funds, with the remainder expected to arrive in July. City Council has already committed more than it has funds, with the highest amount approved in a split decision at the April 12 council meeting to spend $4.7 million to reduce increases garbage fees over the next five years.

The Board also previously approved expenditures:

· $3 million in ARPA funds for the renovation of the Columbia Pool;

· $1.1 million for RAD Card, an application program that doubles customer spending at local businesses;

· $481,338 for the creation of a business development and assistance program;

· $450,000 for budget increases to unfreeze public security positions and fund overtime for firefighters; and

· $50,000 for broadband infrastructure upgrades.

Council members held meetings to solicit public input on how to spend the remaining funds.

The first meeting was held at the Westside Ministries office on Columbia Street in late January. Participants at this meeting came up with ideas ranging from expanding high-speed internet to increasing bus transportation for school children to creating a program through a local credit union. to leverage ARPA funds for auto loans, especially for people who wouldn’t qualify for low interest. traditional loans.

Council member Andrew Nosrati provided an overview of the suggestions made by community members during public meetings and other feedback he received:

— Investments to improve the safety and accessibility of our public spaces. Suggested ideas for adding bollards to economic nuclei, looking specifically at the city center to increase pedestrian access spaces.

“This is something that has been advocated by residents, our downtown consumers, as well as downtown property owners. That’s what we’ve been doing during COVID and it’s been successful and replicating that in a more efficient and cost-effective way seems to make a lot of sense in many ways,” Nosrati said.

— More lighting. “They talked about a specific effort with the bike park, but also in a broader sense, all the parks and all of our public spaces,” he said.

— Develop the activities and accessibility of the parks we have.

“There are conservations related to adding public walking paths, sculpture gardens, sports equipment, expanding existing bike parks and amphitheaters,” Nosrati said.

— Funding support to stimulate our community and economic development.

“People want places and spaces where the community can come together for events that bring this city together,” Nosrati said.

According to Nosrati, there were suggestions to make Turlock “the most business-friendly community in the state.”

– Explore the annexation of county islands. If the city annexed county islands, the funds could be used to update those areas’ basic infrastructure needs.

– Lodging.

“Broad support for policy changes and general plan changes that could spur the development of more affordable housing,” Nosrati said.

– Preoccupation with dividing ARPA funds into several small efforts “that would not result in anything substantial”.

Councilor Nicole Larson suggested creating a sidewalk grant program.

“I think it’s ridiculous that we go to people’s homes and the sidewalks outside their homes and tell them they have to fix that sidewalk at their own expense and we have no way to fix them. help,” Larson said.

Mayor Amy Bublak made the case for strengthening the city’s cybersecurity.

“We need to ensure that our ability to keep information secure is considered. As we progress we have all the information of our residents and everyone is getting hacked everywhere. So if we can use that money to make ourselves stronger so that we don’t get attacked, I think that would be hugely beneficial,” Bublak said.

The Board did not vote on any spending suggestions this month and is expected to consider specific funding proposals in future meetings.

— Kristina Hacker contributed to this report.

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