Funds

City nears final allocations of ARP funds

When the American Rescue Plan Act was signed into law in March 2021, many local officials referred to it as a “once-in-a-lifetime” opportunity to make substantive, permanent changes for local residents.

Among its various provisions, the federal stimulus plan provided funding to local governments to assist communities in recovering from the COVID-19 pandemic.

For the city of Davis, the allocation was $19.7 million, which must be encumbered by December 2024 and fully spent by December 2026.

By March 2022, the City Council, guided by a subcommittee of Mayor Lucas Frerichs and Vice Mayor Will Arnold and following numerous public meetings, had allocated most of the city’s ARP funds, keeping about $2 million in reserve.

So where has that money gone?

The largest allocation — $6.4 million — has gone to social services programs, many of which provide homeless services, including $1 million for Paul’s Place, a vertical tiny-home village on H Street expected to open in early 2023.

Paul’s Place, Assistant City Manager Kelly Stachowicz told the City Council on Tuesday, “will greatly enhance our ability in the community to serve individuals who need supportive services, permanent supportive housing, who are in transitional housing or in need emergency shelter beds.”

Another $1.6 million in ARP funds were allocated for a variety of other homeless services, including shelter, respite care, and veterinary services for the pets of homeless individuals.

That latter program is the Mercer Veterinary Clinic/Davis Pet Advocacy and Wellness program, which works with homeless individuals to make sure their pets are up to date on vaccinations and general health care. The city will provide $12,000 a year for three years for the program.

Other social services programs receiving funds from the city’s ARP pot include Crisis Now ($1.7 million), the Yolo Crisis Nursery ($500,000), expansion of the Adult Day Health Center ($225,000), and more.

In addition to the city’s ARP allocations, many of those social services programs also received funds from the county, including Paul’s Place, Crisis Now and more.

Meanwhile, nearly $800,000 in ARP funds were used to start up the city’s new Department of Housing and Social Services. A department director has been hired and recruitment is underway for an affordable housing manager, Stachowicz said Tuesday.

Under the category of “critical city services,” the council allocated almost $4.7 million in ARP funds, including for revenue backfill, hiring three firefighters to staff a newly approved ladder truck, replacement and expansion of a portable building at City Hall and replacement of public safety radios and equipment.

For the latter item, Stachowicz told the council Tuesday that about “a half million dollars of public safety radios” have been ordered and started to arrive.

“These are very expensive pieces of equipment, yet extremely critical and crucial to our law enforcement officers and firefighters alike.”

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Improvements to downtown Davis will also be funded with ARP dollars.

Just over $1.8 million was allocated for everything from downtown security cameras to weekly cleaning until the newly approved Downtown Streets Team gets up and running.

The streets team — which involves unhoused residents cleaning up high-visibility areas in exchange for case management, employment services and a stipend — will be paid for through cannabis funds and a matching grant from the county.

ARP funds also went to the Davis Downtown Business Association for the “Thursdays in The Davisphere” concert series, pruning in the E Street Plaza, improvements to the Hunt Boyer porch and more.

One key allocation was for CPTED (Crime Prevention Through Environmental Design) grants — $50,000 in total. More than 40 businesses downtown received assessments from the Davis Police Department which resulted in suggestions for ways those businesses could make improvements to reduce their vulnerability (think lighting, landscape, etc.)

Businesses are now applying for ARP funds to make those physical improvements.

“We’re excited to see where that leads us,” Stachowicz said.

An additional $1.2 million will be used for enhancements to downtown infrastructure and community spaces, including beautification, landscaping and trees, and more, though these funds await adoption of the Downtown Specific Plan, expected later this year.

Other ARP-funded projects elsewhere in the community include two that Stachowicz said “are making good progress.”

One is Playfields Park, where the city is replacing the turf and making some ADA improvements to the area and the second is the bike pump track in Community Park “which has long been discussed and put on hold because of COVID,” Stachowicz said.

“We are preparing to release the bid documents for that project later this month so we feel we’re making pretty good progress on both those projects.”

In sum, the Playfield Park renovation was allocated $990,000 and the bike pump track $600,000.

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Finally, June brought a conclusion to the Healthy Davis Together testing program, which the city kept operational for the first half of 2022, thanks to more than $1.5 million in ARP funds allocated by the city.

About $430,000 of that allocation remains unspent.

Given the uncertainty of the pandemic, the council also last March created a COVID response reserve of over $385,000 which remains available.

Bottom line — of the original $19.7 million the city received in ARP funds, just under $2.5 million remains unallocated or in a reserve.

On Tuesday night, the council created a new subcommittee to work with staff to recommend to the full council how best to allocate those remaining funds. That subcommittee will be comprised of Arnold and Councilman Josh Chapman.

In wrapping up staff’s presentation to the council on Tuesday evening, City Manager Mike Webb noted that thanks to the ARP funds received, some “very catalyst-type projects” are being funded.

“Paul’s Place, for example… that’s a game-changer kind of project for the Davis community and the populations we serve,” Webb said.

He also noted that the deadline for spending ARP funds puts city staff in a unique position.

“It’s unusual for us to be in front of you saying, ‘We’ve got to spend it all,’” he told council members.

“We’re so much in the mindset in terms of budgets … and having fiscal policies that really strive to have minimum reserve levels for that rainy day.

“Well, these funds are intended to help make up for that rainy day, many days, that we had (during) COVID,” said Webb. “And there is a need to actually expend every penny of the ARP funds that we have been allocated. If we don’t, it goes back, and I think that’s something we don’t want to be finding ourselves in the position of.”

— Reach Anne Ternus-Bellamy at aternus@davisenterprise.net. Follow her on Twitter at @ATernusBellamy.

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