May 22, 2024

Mansfield City Council to delay NECIC’s request to reallocate ARPA funds

MANSFIELD — A reconfigured Mansfield City Council is expected to start the new year Tuesday by doing what the previous configuration did at the end of the old one.

Namely, again push back a request by the North End Community Improvement Collaborative to reallocate $1.5 million from the city’s American Rescue Plan Act funds.

At-large Councilwoman Stephanie Zader, chair of the public affairs committee, made the decision to place a hold on the proposal, having it pulled from council’s agenda for Tuesday.

She believes the new incoming administration — including Mayor Jodie Perry, Finance Director Kelly Blankenship and Law Director Rollie Harper — deserve a chance to examine the request before council votes on it.

It will also be the first council meeting for new lawmakers Cynthia Daley (4th Ward) and Deborah Mount (6th Ward). The meeting will also be the first after the seat change of David Falquette (now At-large) and Phil Scott (now council president).

“My plan is for the new administration, if they still want to move forward with it, is to come to (council) with a detailed proposal that answers all of our questions,” Zader said.

“If we are going to give out that large of an amount of money, I would like to see a detailed plan laid out,” she said. “It’s about 7 percent of the total ARPA award the city received.”

In May 2022, council approved the ARPA expenditure to NECIC as it began fundraising efforts for a new $16 million Community Impact Center at 486 Springmill St.

Even as those fundraising efforts continue, it’s unlikely NECIC will be able to meet deadlines required for ARPA usage, namely that projects using the federal funds be complete by the end of 2026.

NECIC chose to pivot and gain permission to use those ARPA funds to purchase and renovate 280-290 N. Main St. and buy equipment that will allow it to bring elements of the CIC to life now in the 35,000-square foot space.

NECIC Development Officer Melissa Drozda said the purchase and renovation of 280-290 N. Main St. would allow NECIC to address the community’s urgent needs, while continuing to raise funds for the Community Impact Center.

“We do not want to delay the city in meeting its ARPA funding allocation deadline of 2024,” Drozda said. “Even if we had the entire $16 million now, it is unlikely that construction would be completed by the tight ARPA deadline of 2026.

“We are asking City Council to consider reallocating the $1.5 million of ARPA funding toward this alternative project that is ready to go right now,” Drozda said.

“This represents a unique opportunity for us to address urgent issues head-on while also laying the groundwork for the future impact center,” she said.

The vacant buildings were formerly used by the Volunteers of America.

But during its final meeting on 2023, Council on Dec. 21 expressed questions and concerns raised that led to a motion delaying the vote until Jan. 2.

One of Zader’s questions about the plan was based on zoning of the two buildings, both of which are in industrial zones.

2nd Ward Councilwoman Cheryl Meier asked how NECIC would purchase the two North Main Street buildings if they lacked the $1.5 million in reallocated ARPA funds.  NECIC Finance Manager Mario Davison was unable to address Meier’s question and asked if he could provide an answer at a future date.

On Dec. 21, Scott voted against planning a vote Jan. 2.

“The planning commission will not have met (to discuss zoning issues before Jan. 2),” he said. “So, we’re not going to be any farther ahead, come January 2nd, than we are tonight.”

Also on the schedule for Tuesday:

— A swearing-in ceremony will be conducted for newly elected council members, as well as those elected to the city’s charter review commission.

— Council is expected to vote on a proposal to add $300,000 in PRIDE tax funds for the ongoing demolition and cleanup of former Westinghouse properties on the city’s east side. In August 2022, lawmakers allocated $500,000 in ARPA money toward the project. Costs of the project have increased as the company doing the project has found unanticipated concrete pits and other issues that were buried under the ground on the 13-acre site.

— Lawmakers are scheduled to vote on a “then-and-now” certificate to pay PenLink $23,282.45. The Mansfield Police Department contracted with the company to provide software for the METRICH Enforcement Unit prior to submitting a purchase order to the city finance department. Funds for the project from the Recovery Ohio state grant.

— Another “then-and-now” certificate is scheduled for vote to pay Flock Safety $73,00 for its license plate reader system. The MPD contracted with the company prior to submitted a purchase order. Funds for the project come from an American Rescue Plan Violence Reduction grant.

— Council is expected to vote to accept a $36,126.74 grant from the Ohio Office of
Criminal Justice Services under the Paul Coverdell Forensic Science Improvement Grant to defray the costs of forensic science overtime, contracts, supplies and equipment for the MPD crime lab.

— Lawmakers are expected to vote to accept $43,466.94 from the Ohio Office
of Criminal Justice Services to help create “a training blueprint to enhance and sustain knowledge and skills on crime analysis and evidence-based practices” in eight northern Ohio police departments. MPD is the grant administrator for the Northern
Ohio Violent Crime Consortium’s eight police departments (Akron, Canton, Cleveland, Elyria, Lorain, Mansfield, Toledo and Youngstown).

(Below is a PDF with the legislation Mansfield City Council is scheduled to consider Tuesday.)

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