City distributes $3.4 million in ARPA funds
MARION — Marion City Council approved spending plans for the more than $3.4 million in the American Rescue Plan Act Monday night, with the Boyton Street Community Center, affordable housing and community revitalization among the main beneficiaries.
The Boyton Street Community Center is earmarked $500,000 for interior renovations, including new restrooms and the addition of a multipurpose room, Mayor Michael Absher said.
Another $500,000 is earmarked for a citywide affordable housing program modeled on Habitat to Humanity. Under this model, funds could go a long way, Absher said. “Five hundred thousand dollars could be used to build dozens of houses,” he said.
In all, there are 11 “buckets” to receive the $3,468,236 in ARPA funds, which are part of the federal government’s stimulus package to recover from the COVID-19 pandemic. Half of the funds were disbursed last May, with the remainder due in city coffers in May.
Part of the funds will go towards improvements in Tower Square, with $300,000 for safer outdoor gathering areas promoting social distancing and outdoor dining. Concrete work and bollards will isolate pedestrians from traffic.
An additional $500,000 is planned for the revitalization of the Midway Court, Hendrickson and Concord neighborhoods on the southwest side of the city. The city purchased aging vacant homes in this neighborhood and demolished them, to open up opportunities for new housing development. A second residential district of tax increase funding is also planned for this part of town, stimulating further development.
Indeed, later in the meeting, council approved the purchase of six lots at Midway Court and on Hendrickson Street.
Other ARPA appropriations include $400,000 for improvements to the area around Fifth and West Main Street where a new traffic light is planned, among other developments.
The new City Hall in the First Southern Bank building in Tower Square will receive $300,000 for an elevator that complies with the Americans with Disabilities Act.
Previously approved by City Council is a $200,000 grant program, which nonprofit groups can apply for, up to $20,000. Further details of the grant program are available on the city’s website.
And $50,000 each is being allocated to Centerstone Church’s Renew program and the Southern Illinois Coalition for the Homeless.
The Marion Senior Center will receive $150,000.
And $250,000 is reserved for hazard pay for municipal employees. Absher said the money received by city workers would be based on their average salary for the past year and would not exceed $1,000.
The mayor noted that as the city council considered spending ARPA funds, federal rules kept changing and at one point only “essential” workers were to receive hazard pay.
Commissioner John M. Barwick Jr. said he disagreed with that policy, which has since been revised.
“In my view, all of our workers are essential,” Barwick said.
What remains is $302,236, which will be kept in financial reserves, Absher said.
The board, along with Absher, Barwick, and commissioners Doug Patton, Jim Webb, and John Stoecklin, voted 5-0 to approve ARPA’s spending plan.