ARP funding requests hit snag

The Seymour City Council’s latest efforts to allocate some of the $4.16 million in federal pandemic relief funding to nonprofits and city services and infrastructure projects ran into another road block Monday night.

In late September, the council approved $802,545 in American Rescue Plan funds for 11 nonprofit agencies after several meetings to debate the eligibility and amounts requested by those entities. Earlier in the year, the council OK’d a $200,000 request from Child Care Network to go toward a child care center in downtown Seymour.

The newest issue cropped up during Monday night’s council meeting at city hall as the councilmen held public hearings for ARP requests from five nonprofits totaling nearly $206,000 and five more from city departments totaling $2.6 million.

The nonprofit requests included $20,000 from Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 1925 for construction projects; $34,503.82 from The Arc of Jackson County for construction projects at a group home; $50,000 from American Legion Post 89 to help with building upkeep, including the cost of a new HVAC system and flooring; $85,470 from Immanuel Lutheran Child Care Ministry to recover funds lost because of COVID-19; and $15,000 from Sweet Cheeks Diaper Pantry to purchase diapers to distribute to those in need.

The requests from city department heads included $300,000 from water pollution control for a project to rehabilitate sanitary and storm sewers in an alley between Indianapolis Avenue and Chestnut Street; $1.5 million from the department of public works for a waste transfer station; $240,000 from the Seymour Police Department for HVAC replacement at the police station; $160,000 from the Seymour Fire Department to purchase traffic light preemption technology; and $400,000 from the parks and recreation department to add 200 parking spaces at Freeman Field Recreation Complex.

After the public hearings in which officials from the nonprofits and department heads outlined their requests, the first four from nonprofits received approval on first reading from councilmen. It was the fifth from Sweet Cheeks Diaper Pantry that brought everything to a standstill.

That’s because the city’s ordinance governing ARP funding requests requires the entity to have experienced losses from COVID-19 between Jan. 1, 2020, and March 3, 2021.

Sweet Cheeks Diaper Panty only came into existence in late summer when First Presbyterian Church gave the organization $15,000 in seed money to purchase diapers for those in need.

Councilman Bret Cunningham said while he thought the organization was providing a needed service and could be worthy of funding, he could not vote for providing it with ARP funds since it didn’t meet the time period requirement.

A couple of others, including council President Dave Earley, said they understood his reasoning.

Councilman Jerry Hackney, who chairs the city’s finance committee, said while the need to provide diapers for people probably existed before the pandemic, it became worse during that time period. That’s why the request was advanced to the council with a favorable recommendation.

The council eventually decided to table Sweet Cheeks’ request until it could be reviewed by city attorney Chris Engleking to determine if there was a way the request for the help by the organization could be met with ARP monies.

At that point, the council started the process of approving first reading of the five requests from city department heads, who had originally sought nearly $7 million from the council for various projects.

Mayor Matt Nicholson then questioned whether those city department head requests needed to fit within the Jan. 1, 2020, and March 3, 2021, timeline, as well.

“I’m just asking,” he said.

After some further discussions about the issue, councilmen decided to table those five requests so the issue could be sorted out. The city has until the end of 2024 to obligate the funds, which must be spent by the end of 2026.