CORUNNA — A handful of local municipalities and nonprofit organizations made their case to the Shiawassee County Finance and Administration Committee Wednesday, requesting varying portions of the county’s $13.2 million American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funding during the first of several open forums geared toward evaluating how the federal dollars could best be spent.
“There isn’t going to be any decisions today. This is just an informational meeting because there’s a lot to this money,” Finance Committee Chairman John Plowman, R-District 7, reminded attendees, adding, “this is quite a process to go through.”
The county received approximately $6.6 million this year and will receive an additional $6.6 million next year as part of the $1.9 trillion federal legislation approved in the spring. There are restrictions on what the funds may be used for, Plowman explained. He and several other commissioners, along with county Finance Director Tracy Bublitz, will attend meetings over the coming weeks to ask questions and get definitive answers as to what may be covered by the federal dollars.
“Keep in mind that if we’re going to do things for our county citizens, it would have to benefit, theoretically, all of the citizens in the county,” Plowman said. “It isn’t like we’re going to do something different for each township or different for each city; it’s more or less, what would be a general thing that would help all the citizens of Shiawassee County?”
Shiawassee County Fire Chief’s Association President Guy Hubbard Wednesday requested the county allocate approximately $1.17 million in ARPA funds to be shared across the county’s 13 fire departments.
“A lot of us have outdated equipment that’s past its shelf life, past its life where it can’t be supported any more, it can’t be repaired any more,” Hubbard informed commissioners, noting firefighters’ Self-Contained Breathing Apparatuses (SCBAs) cost about $8,000 apiece.
The coronavirus pandemic has placed an additional strain on area fire departments and their equipment, Hubbard said. ARPA funding, about $90,000 to each of the counties 13 fire departments, would be used to replace outdated SCBAs, purchase fill stations, as well as help with the purchase of fire trucks for all county fire departments.
“This would help support all 250 firefighters in Shiawassee County and every resident, 70,000 plus, would benefit from this equipment,” Hubbard said.
Shiawassee Family YMCA CEO Laura Archer, meanwhile, proposed a partnership between the county and the YMCA, hoping to spark a conversation on how “collectively we can help address some of the needs that we’re aware of for citizens here in our county.”
The YMCA conducted a community needs assessment in 2019-20, discovering that, “we have a large population of people who live in poverty, high number of kids on medicaid and we have families that are going hungry,” Archer said. The assessment also outlined the county’s aging population, a group that “needs a place” to gather, a place to learn, and a place to work on being healthy if they so choose, Archer said.
A massive need for quality child care also exists in the county, Archer explained, noting the YMCA is in the process of completing a feasibility study to get a price tag on what it would cost to expand the YMCA’s current footprint to try to address some of those concerns.
“If partnered with a municipality, we would also have access to other funding streams, especially federal funding streams that would help support our efforts to build a quality, affordable, innovative child care center,” Archer said, adding increased funding would also allow the YMCA to more adequately serve its growing elderly population.
“Now is the time to take us beyond a community hub to the next level,” Archer said, “but we can’t do it alone.”
Requests to establish a fund for routine maintenance and repairs to the 35th Circuit Courthouse, cover portions of water projects in Perry and Perry Township, as well as assist area nonprofits — the Shiawassee County Humane Society among them — were also proposed during Wednesday’s session.
A second public forum has yet to be scheduled, though commissioners agreed Wednesday’s session would be the first of many. Area groups wishing to propose a possible project or initiative are asked to contact their county commissioner.