City council discusses ARP funds

By Mitchell Banks

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Seymour is eligible to receive $4.16 million through the American Rescue Plan signed into law in March by President Joe Biden.

The funds — to be used for coronavirus relief — led one Seymour resident to attend Monday night’s city council meeting to find answers to his questions about those monies.

To receive the funding, the city council has to submit a Coronavirus Local Fiscal Recovery Fund request to the state, which is administrating ARP funds.

Tyler Henkle asked if the council had submitted a request. Clerk-Treasurer Darrin Boas said a request for $2.2 million already had been submitted to the state.

Boas told The Tribune that $2.2 million has been received by the city and no plans have been made for the use of the funds.

The additional ARP funds will be requested when the state allows the city to, which is approximately one year after the first received payment. That payment was received last month.

Mayor Matt Nicholson was asked by Henkle if he had read the interim final rule that outlines the rules and regulations regarding ARP funds. The mayor said he had read it.

Henkle said cities such as Bloomington and Louisville, Kentucky, have begun allocating their ARP funds to help their homeless populations. He asked the council if they considered using some of the funds to help the homeless population in Seymour.

Nicholson said he had not considered that, but when the time comes that there’s discussion on what exactly the funds can be spent on, there’s the potential that some could be used to help the homeless population.

Henkle asked if ARP funds could be used toward Regional Economic Acceleration and Development Initiative grant projects. Nicholson said ARP funds can’t be used for those projects but could be used toward State Water Infrastructure Fund grant initiatives.

READI is a regional initiative between certain cities, towns and counties around the state. Successful applicants will receive funding from the state to create projects that enhance the regions. Jackson County is working with Bartholomew and Jennings counties to pursue a READI grant.

Nicholson said $500,000 with an equal match from the city has been proposed for SWIF grant projects in Mutton Creek and Pebblebrook Drive. When applying for the grant, he said there was a line that asked if the city would like to use ARP funds toward the project, and it was marked the city would.

These projects intend to replace a sewer force main in Mutton Creek and add a lift station in the area of Pebblebrook Drive.

The city will learn if its SWIF grant has been approved by the end of this month or of September, Nicholson said. The mayor also said using ARP funds toward the project was one of a few different options when it comes to what money will be used toward the grant.

To gauge public input on what funding should be used for, Henkle asked the council if there were plans to hold public discussions.

No specific dates have been planned for public discussion about the use of ARP funds, but city officials have discussed the idea, Nicholson said.

He also said he believes conversations will start about how ARP money will be appropriated in October.

Of the several meetings Nicholson has attended regarding ARP funding, he said he has been advised to be “cautious and careful” about planning on what to use the money for.

Every councilman, aside from Dave Earley, who was not in attendance, was asked by Henkle if they felt public input sessions should be held about what Seymour’s ARP funding should be used toward.

Councilman Drew Storey said he has not been a part of any discussion about having a public discussion about ARP funds, but he couldn’t say he was not interested to hear what “hopes and goals” citizens have. He said he couldn’t say he is or isn’t planning to hold a public input session.

Councilman Bret Cunningham said he asked Nicholson the same question during a recent meeting and feels the council needs to “keep tabs on money.” He called the ARP funding a “windfall” because it was money that the city didn’t need or serve.

As for holding a public input session, Cunningham said the information isn’t available on where to spend the funding yet, and holding one too soon would lead to disappointment without that knowledge. He said he plans on asking what ARP funds are being used toward again.

Councilman Matt Wheeler said he doesn’t see a reason to decide what to use ARP funding for if information about what it can be used toward isn’t available yet.

Councilman Jerry Hackney said more people would attend a public input session if it was citywide, rather than done in districts. He agreed the information isn’t available to have a public input session at the moment, but it’s a possibility when that information is available.

Councilmen Chad Hubbard and Seth Davidson also shared the sentiment that a public input session about ARP funds isn’t necessary if information about the funds isn’t available yet.