The city of Battle Creek announced a series of upcoming town halls seeking community input on how to spend money from $30.5 million in American Rescue Plan Act funding.
“We expect there will be a lot of diversity and opinion about how dollars could be spent and we expect the final allocation will include a lot of diverse ways of spreading the money around the community," Ted Dearing, Assistant City Manager for the city of Battle Creek, said.
The first town hall is scheduled for Wednesday, Oct. 13 at Kingdom Builders, located at 50 Spencer Street.
According to the city, the money must be used to meet certain federal requirements. As of August 2021, an interim rule said the city could use the ARPA funds in four ways:
- Negative economic impact
- Premium pay for eligible workers
- Government services lost revenue
- Water, sewer, and broadband
Dearing said the city has several priorities already, including dependable city operations, improved broadband services, and affordable housing, among others.
“We do want to fund an initiative we’ve designed to work with our local hotels and motels to try to create an environment that is more safe for long-term stays," Dearing said. "The reason behind that is we do have a housing vulnerable population that uses our hotels for housing but they aren’t necessarily configured for long-term stays.”
Some residents have already voiced their ideas ahead of the town hall meetings, Dearing added.
“I think the idea that the city could provide support through utility billing, for example, is very popular throughout the local community," he said. "I think any relief the city can provide in terms of cost of services we provide directly to people is a popular theme.”
The city has also prioritized providing support to BIPOC organizations that are serving a community need in Battle Creek, Dearing said.
There are certain areas where the funding cannot be used.
“We’ve had a lot of people reach out to us and say well what you need to do is pay down your debt but unfortunately we cannot do that," Dearing said. "We can’t pay down debt, there are some limitations... in most cases the money has to be directly tied to a negative impact from COVID. There are a lot of folks who have ideas around small business support that we might not necessarily be able to fund because we can’t create a direct tie to negative economic impact. In some instances we can, in a lot of instances we can’t.”
Upcoming scheduled town halls:
- Oct. 13 – Kingdom Builders, 50 Spencer Street
- Oct. 20 – Virtual and online – live streamed to the city’s Facebook page and AccessVision – participate by calling (312) 626-6799 and entering the meeting ID 840 6717 6178 – 10 a.m. to noon
- Oct. 20 – Washington Heights United Methodist Church, 153 North Wood Street (live-streamed to the church’s Facebook page) 3W Kendall-Goodale bus route; closest stop at Parkway Drive/Hancock Court, serviced at :05 and :35 after each hour
- Oct. 27 – New Level Sports Ministries, 400 West Michigan Avenue 1W West Michigan bus route; closest stop at West Michigan/Kendall Street, services at about :20 after each hour
- Nov. 3 – Lakeview Square Mall, 5775 Beckley Road (use entrance by Barnes & Noble) – 5-6:30 p.m. 4S SW Capital bus route; stop is at the mall, in the back by the flagpole, serviced at :50 after each hour
- Nov. 10 – Burma Center, 765 Upton Avenue, Springfield 5W Fort Custer bus route; stop near the Burma Center on Upton, limited service hours
- Nov. 17 – LaMora Park Elementary, 65 North Woodlawn Avenue – 7-9 p.m.
- Dec. 1 – Kool Family Center, 200 West Michigan Avenue – hosted with Voces: 1W West Michigan bus route; closest stop near West Michigan/Washington Avenue at the Seventh Day Adventist Church, serviced at :15 after each hour
City leaders will share the same information at each meeting, so those interested in attending will only need to be at one.
The final decision on the allocation of funds won't be made until all meetings have been completed in December.