MANSFIELD -- Mayor Tim Theaker said Tuesday he is reviewing requests for American Rescue Plan funds that already exceed $32 million -- or $10 million more than the city is expected to receive from the latest COVID-19 relief funds.
City Council on Tuesday night is expected to vote on an ordinance allowing the acceptance of $22 million in ARP funds -- half of which would arrive in May and the second half coming a year later.
The city has until the end of 2024 to spend the funds.
A fellow at the Brookings Institution told Richland Source that 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.
"It's the smart way to go to the extent you want investments to ripple through the community. It makes sense to broaden the tent a bit," Joseph Parilla recently told Richland Source.
Richland Source emailed the mayor and members of City Council on Tuesday morning and asked the following questions:
1. Do you plan to discuss this with the City Council? Will there be council committee meetings on the topic or will it be discussed during a general caucus session?
2. Do you plan to meet with outside groups, i.e. the Chamber, Richland County Foundation, Richland County elected leaders, elected leaders in other cities and villages in the county?
3. Do you plan on public involvement in the discussion?
4. What other steps do you plan to make this a community decision?
In his response, Theaker said he is "working on money. Tonight will only be accepting the money as we have to do first.
"Reviewing requests that now have exceeded $32m. Have met and will meet with others before a proposal will be made to council," the mayor said.
In his response, Theaker didn't offer details on the $32 million in requests, nor did he specify whom he has met with to discuss ARP investment plans.
In her emailed response, City Council member at-large Stephanie Zader said she hoped there would be several council meetings and many public meetings to discuss how the money should be invested.
She said council should work with the city administration to facilitate such meetings.
She said she has met with officials from the Chamber and Richland County Foundation "and will continue to do so throughout this entire process."
"As I meet with citizens of Mansfield, community organizations, and leaders throughout our community, I will ask them how they think we can best make this a community decision," Zader said.
"These funds have the ability to be a catalyst for our city and my hope is that they are wisely invested so they continue to pay us dividends in the future," she said.
In his emailed response to the same set of questions, 3rd Ward Council member Jon Van Harlingen, chair of council's finance committee, said, "It is my understanding the administration is currently working on and considering proposals that will be presented to council for discussion and appropriations at a later date."
There will be a City Council finance committee meeting Tuesday at 6:40 p.m., followed immediately by council caucus and then the legislative session.