MANSFIELD -- Three Mansfield City Council members made it clear Tuesday evening that local lawmakers would like input when it comes to the investment of $22 million in federal money from the American Rescue Plan.
All three also advised Mayor Tim Theaker they would like to see the public be included in the decision-making process.
During a Zoom meeting on Tuesday evening, council approved legislation that allows the city to accept the funds, half of which will arrive in May with the second half coming one year later. The city has until Dec. 31, 2024, to decide how to use the funds.
Theaker said he has been advised by the Ohio Municipal League to wait on specific guidelines from the U.S. Treasury Department on how the funds can be utilized.
The mayor, who said he has already received $32 million in requests, is also in discussions with Richland Area Chamber & Economic Development and the Richland County Foundation, among others.
Theaker said one possibility is partnering with the the foundation on projects that could leverage private funding in some of the potential projects.
"We are listening to people and trying to get input from individuals (also)," Theaker said. "But we already have $32 million in requests we will have to pare that down because we don't have that much money coming in.
"The spreadsheet I have changes day to day (and) will until we have guidelines."
The mayor's comments seemed to be in line with the opinions offered recently to Richland Source by a Brookings Institution fellow. Joseph Parilla said counties, cities and villages should work together with private businesses, non-profit organizations and residents on investment decisions to achieve both short- and long-term success.
At-large council members Phil Scott and Stephanie Zader, during a finance committee meeting that included discussion on the bill, asked that public meetings be included in the process.
"I would like to think that council and the administration could work together to facilitate these public meetings," Zader said, adding she had been told other communities have already set up steering committees to work on plans for the funds.
Scott said, "I am hoping for kind of a more public forum in which we could have some discussion."
Third Ward Council member Jon Van Harlingen, chair of the finance committee, also asked Theaker to give council more time to consider the administration's proposals than was given during 2020 with CARES Act funds that needed to be spent quickly due to federal guidelines.
"I know the administration is talking to a lot of groups," Van Harlingen said. "I just hope when it gets to council that it's more transparent for the purposes of the public and I would rather not be rushed on some of these projects."
No other council members commented Tuesday evening on the ARP funding plans.
Also on Tuesday, City Council:
-- approved the city's $230,655 portion of ODOT street resurfacing plans this year that include sections of Ohio 309 and U.S. 42 inside Mansfield limits. ODOT covers 80 percent of the costs for the work, city engineer Bob Bianchi said.
-- approved a proposal that will add the name of "Prince" Charles Williams to Harker Street between Bowman and Springmill streets. Williams is a former International Boxing Federation light-heavyweight champion of the world. The 58-year-old Williams rose through the 175-pound ranks and became the IBF world champ with an upset TKO win against Bobby Czyz in 1987 in Las Vegas.
-- approved resolutions honoring recently retired Mansfield police Capt. Doug Noblet and officer Richard Dittrich. Noblet served 29 years and Dittrich 23 years on the department.
-- approved a $1,600 payment to Gabrielle Cooney, 1155 Devonwood Road, for damages related to a sewer backup claim in November 2020.
--approved an $870 payment to Harry and Judith Waldman, 4137 W. Covert Road, Perrysville, for flood damage at their rental properties at 224 and 226 West Third Street in August and September 2020.
-- approved a $3,500 payment to Michael Cline as owner and agent of 161 North Trimble, LLC, 161 N. Trimble Road, for flood damage in September 2020.
-- approved demoltion of unsafe structures at 109 Wood St., 123 Vennum Ave., 264 Harker St. and 287 Lexington Ave.
-- approved a lease-to-purchase agreement not to exceed $416,937 for a new vac-con combo sewer cleaner truck for the sewer department. The equipment will be paid off in five annual installments of $86,811. Public Works Director Dave Remy said it will replace a 13-year-old truck that is worn out. He said the sewer department has two such trucks and uses them on a daily basis. Remy said the funds will come from the city's sewer fund and is in the 2021 budget.
-- approved the city's 2021 Community Development Block Grant and Home Investment Partnership Program proposals for submission to the U.S. Office of Housing and Urban Development.
-- approved moving $10,000 within the Codes & Permits Department budget to pay for summer mowing as needed.
Council next meets on April 20 and President David Falquette said he is working on a plan that would allow some council members to attend in-person for the first time since March 2020 when the COVID-19 pandemic reached Ohio.