MANSFIELD -- There were no voiced objections Tuesday evening when Mansfield Mayor Tim Theaker outlined to City Council his plans to spend $10.5 million in American Rescue Plan Act federal funds.
A vote on the proposed spending, which includes setting aside $5 million for revenue lost to the COVID-19 pandemic, is scheduled at council's next meeting on Oct. 5.
"This (plan) really falls in line almost to a 'T' what the Greater Ohio Policy Center called for," the mayor said, citing a heavy focus on infrastructure in low-income census tract areas.
Later in the evening, City Council members cited the ARPA fund plan in approving $1.6 million for engineering/design work on a dry dam in North Lake Park aimed at removing 106 acres from the flood plain on the north side of the city.
Under the latest COVID-19 relief plan approved by Congress earlier this year, the city will receive about $21 million, getting half of the allocations this year and half next year. The money must be appropriated by the end of 2024 and spent by the end of 2026, under guidelines established by the U.S. Treasury Dept.
Finance committee chair Jon Van Harlingen, who represents the 3rd Ward, went over the nine-item spending list with the administration:
General fund revenue replacement ($5,013,194.55) -- Theaker said the money will be "parked" for future usage, adding some of it will be used to balance the city's budget in 2022.
He said Treasury Department guidelines may change, but approved spending now will be allowable even if later guidelines disallow it.
The mayor said City Council would have to approve any usages from the $5 million in the future.
Emergency storm sewer project ($2,050,000 total) -- These funds will cover the replacement of a 19th-century storm sewer that collapsed this summer. City engineer Bob Bianchi has said Phase 1 starting near Third and Bowman streets is underway and will cost about $950,000. Phase 2 will be done in 2022, completing the line to Touby's Run, with an estimated cost of $1.1 million.
Water line design ($900,000) -- Bianchi told council the funds will pay for engineering and design work to replace about 25 miles of aging city water lines in various locations, creating "shovel-ready" projects the city can use to seek additional state and federal funding in the future.
Scan documents ($850,000) -- Theaker said the city pays to store more than 8,000 boxes of documents that must be kept to meet state public records law. These funds would allow for those documents to be scanned and maintained in electronic form, allowing most of the "flimsy and old" paper documents to be destroyed.
Police radio replacement ($642,616.67) -- Police Chief Keith Porch told council he recently learned the department's 10-year-old radio system must be upgraded on the Multi-Agency Radio Communications System (MARCS), a digital system. The upgrade includes 96 hand-held radios, 45 mobile in-car radios and the communications center. He said he was told the upgrade must be done by July 2025. Doing it now will allow the department to get cheaper pricing through the State Fire Marshal's Office.
Fire station COVID updates ($325,000) -- Fire Chief Steve Strickling said the funds will be used to renovate the sleeping quarters at Station 1, converting it from a dormitory style arrangement to 10 individual bedrooms for firefighters and paramedics. He said this would lessen the possibility of virus spread among the firefighters and some funds may be left over to make improvements at Station 3, also.
Business development ($550,000) -- Theaker said the money would be used to benefit businesses impacted by the pandemic, likely in the form of grants involving economic development director Tim Bowersock working with the Richland Area Chamber & Economic Development.
Catholic Charities ($60,000) -- These funds will be used to provide rental assistance for residents in low-income census tract areas, the mayor said.
The city would have $106,889.78 remaining in its first-year ARPA allocation if council approves the plan Oct. 5.