DECATUR — With city coffers suddenly flush with cash from the latest round of COVID-19 stimulus funds, the Decatur City Council on Monday will once again discuss how they want to spend it. But Monday’s discussion will likely go deeper, with city staff offering a list of specific recommended uses for this year’s $16.9 million
DECATUR — With city coffers suddenly flush with cash from the latest round of COVID-19 stimulus funds, the Decatur City Council on Monday will once again discuss how they want to spend it.
But Monday’s discussion will likely go deeper, with city staff offering a list of specific recommended uses for this year’s $16.9 million installment. A second payment will be forthcoming next year.
In a memo to Mayor Julie Moore Wolfe and members of the council, City Manager Scot Wrighton recommended spending $9 million on three high-priority water and sewer projects; between $3 million and $4 million to replace lost 2020 tax revenue; and no more than $1 million on broadband expansion.
City officials also outlined a $7 million plan to invest in the city’s dilapidated housing stock, a major piece of its neighborhood revitalization initiative. If approved, about $2 million would be spent this year and the rest the following year.
Regarding infrastructure, Wrighton offered a baker’s dozen amount of water and sewer projects eligible for stimulus funds, but suggested the three “highest priority” projects be funded.
They include the replacement of a water clarifier at the South Water Treatment Plant, a $16 million project considered top priority for the water system.
It also includes $13 million to separate the combined sanitary and storm sewer system around Oakland and Grand avenues and $5.7 million to reduce inflow and infiltration in the area around Division Street and Ellen Avenue, considered the first- and second-priority sewer projects, respectively.
“We want the ARP funds to be long-term investments into the community that everybody benefits from as opposed to just picking particularly-impacted industries or entities and putting the money there to fill the short-term need,” said Assistant City Manager Jon Kindseth. “So any amount of money that the city puts towards infrastructure is a long-term investment that all taxpayers, all ratepayers will benefit from for a long period of time.”
The three projects represent about $34 million of the more than $71 million in water and sewer investments needed. Kindseth said the ARP funds would put a dent into those costs, perhaps saving city residents from a rate increase that would otherwise be needed to fund the projects.
Wrighton also left open the possibility of making other one-time investments with remaining relief funds, using the Children’s Museum of Illinois, which was closed for more than a year, as an example of an organization the city could award funds to.
Funds for housing would be split between owner-occupied residential rehab programs (about $1.7 million) and rental rehab programs ($5 million), the latter receiving more due to greater demand for rental housing.
Basically, those who own their home or rental property in a low-income area would be eligible for rehab grants and/or forgivable loans, which could be used for things such as the replacement of windows, gutters, roofs, abatement of lead, siding, porches and energy-efficient HVAC systems.
No vote will be taken Monday, but an amendment to the fiscal year 2021 budget will be forthcoming once the council decides how to disperse this year’s stimulus funds.
Kindseth said the city has “always struggled with with being able to adequately fund neighborhood revitalization,” with no dedicated funding sources “beyond the normal CDBG and HOME programs that the city runs year after year as an entitlement community.”
“And so I think that we looked at this ARP and said, this is kind of a one-time opportunity to really put some some real resources into neighborhood revitalization,” Kindseth said.
The housing funds will also be used to match private investment for the rehabilitation of New Durfee School at Grand Street and Oakland Avenue. The city has been in discussions with the Neighborhood United association and a prospective developer about the best use for the site.
Wrighton recommended not spending ARP funds on the replacement of lead service lines, noting that additional state and federal funds are likely to become available to address those issues.
He also said broadband spending would be limited to $1 million due to “the time needed to design, build and deploy” the technology, along with a shortage in contractors and material.
Also on Monday, the council will consider an ordinance authorizing a $199,146 professional services agreement with Los Angeles-based AECOM Technical Services Inc. for preliminary design work for the Oakland and Grand sewer separation project.
The project is one of many the city plans to tackle in the coming years in an effort to eliminate overflows and reduce basement flooding.
10 highest Decatur city employee salaries