How Would You Spend $22.48 Million?

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How Would You Spend $22.48 Million?

It’s not often that you can decide how to spend millions of dollars.

But Clearwater residents can participate in doing just that in a series of upcoming meetings held by the City of Clearwater to discuss the city’s strategic direction plan and how the city is proposing to spend the approximately $22.48 million being received as part of the American Rescue Plan Act.

How would you spend it? Affordable housing? Parks or library upgrades? A new Community Redevelopment area? Educational grants or new environmental technologies?

Have your voice heard at one or more of the following meetings:

Monday, May 16, 6 to 7:30 p.m.
Morningside Recreation Center
2400 Harn Blvd.

Tuesday, May 24, 6 to 7:30 p.m.
North Greenwood Recreation Center
900 N. MLK Jr. Ave.

Tuesday, May 31, 6 to 7:30 p.m.
Clearwater Beach Recreation Center
69 Bay Esplanade

Wednesday, June 1, 6 to 7:30 p.m.
Countryside Library
2642 Sabal Springs Dr.

Allowable uses of the funds include:

  • To respond to the pandemic or its negative economic impacts, including assistance to households, small businesses, and nonprofits, or aid to impacted
    industries such as tourism, travel, and hospitality
  • For premium pay to eligible workers performing essential work during the pandemic
  • For the provision of government services to the extent of the reduction in revenue due to the pandemic
  • To make necessary investments in water, sewer, or broadband infrastructure

The city of Clearwater has been allocated a total of $22,483,893 under this program. The ARPA allocation must be committed or contractually encumbered to projects and programs by the end of calendar year 2024. All monies must be spent by 2026 and any monies unspent at that time must be refunded to the federal government.

The following projects meet the criteria and are being recommended by Clearwater staff:

Startup Funding for North Greenwood Community Redevelopment Agency
$5 million
These funds will help the North Greenwood Community Redevelopment Agency start its redevelopment efforts. Because the Community Redevelopment Agency’s future funding is predicated on increasing the taxable value of the properties within the area, staff believes an initial investment in the neighborhood is appropriate to jumpstart these efforts. A centerpiece of the area is the North Ward School which the city has acquired and is ready to redevelop. Many other efforts are currently being planned in this area which is generally defined as a roughly 1.31-square-mile area to the north and northeast of downtown.

Fiber Upgrades and Broadband Connectivity
$3.5 million
These funds will be used to upgrade the city’s traffic management infrastructure which will allow for better traffic management by using an Intelligent Traffic System that can be integrated with regional partner’s systems. This will allow for better flow of traffic which will have positive benefits in the areas of local job creation, travel time to/from work, and sustainability. Additionally, the infrastructure upgrades create a more secure network infrastructure for the city to protect city assets and enhance provided services.

Affordable Housing
$3.3 million
Housing projects will include down payment assistance, rehabilitation and new construction of single-family and multi-family homes, and energy efficiency improvements such as installation of cool roofs and solar panels when practicable. These funds will be used to assist households with incomes between 80 and 120 percent Area Median Income. While this income bracket will be the primary target, worthwhile projects assisting households below 80 percent Area Mean Income will also be considered.

Street and Sidewalk Improvements
$2 million
These funds will be used to expedite roadway, curb and sidewalk improvements in low-income communities. Approximately $1.8 million will be spent on milling/resurfacing roadways and approximately $320,000 will be spent on sidewalk and curb improvements. This $2 million will be in addition to the $5.2 to $5.7 million that is budgeted annually for street and sidewalk improvements.

Solar Panels for City Facilities

$2 million
These funds would be used to kick off the city’s solar installation program on city buildings. These investments will help reduce the costs related to energy use, allowing for operational funds to be reallocated or tax rates reduced.

Pinellas Community Foundation
$1 million
Pinellas Community Foundation will solicit, evaluate and award up to $1,000,000 to a nonprofit organization that offers an innovative and impactful concept for affordable and attainable housing in the city of Clearwater. Awardee must be able to complete the project by September 30, 2026.

Non-Profit Cultural Affairs Funding
$1 million
These funds are proposed as a grant-based program. Non-profit organizations in Clearwater that provide services within Clearwater will have an opportunity to request funding for programs that focus on cultural affairs. These could include area markets, concert or theatre events, or other community social opportunities that are trying to be become financially feasible or who need financial assistance getting back to pre-pandemic levels of effectiveness.

Education – Grants or Partnerships
$1 million
These funds will be used to provide a grant or partnership opportunity with a non-profit or government entity for programs that focus on educational opportunities targeting students who have fallen behind academically due to the pandemic.

State Street Park Improvements
This project will provide for the development of State Street Park located on the southwest corner of State Street and North Betty Lane. This property was purchased more than 30 years ago for the purpose of developing a neighborhood park. The present homeowner association has been very active in promoting this park and desires to have additional park improvements. Development of the park would preserve the tree canopy and allow the park to remain in as much of its natural state as possible. Development could include improved open field play areas and the addition of a playground, nature/walking trails, fencing, water fountain, parking, signage and other park amenities. Invasive plant species would also be removed from the park.

Clearwater Main Library Info Hub
This project would transform the first floor of the Main Library into a one-stop destination that supports and enhances citizen use of the new Coachman Park and downtown by relocating the library’s most-used resources and services. To support this one-stop model, part of the reference and circulation staff would join to create an “information hub” on the first floor where patrons could get any technical or library support or information about activities in Coachman Park.

Reimburse the City for COVID Expenses
The city expended $1,379,498 of General Fund operating budget on the Clearwater Back to Business Grant and Professional Services Program during fiscal years 2020 and 2021. Additionally, the city expended $1,741,242 city-wide on premium pay and vacation accruals for essential employees during the pandemic, per the city’s emergency deployment and compensation policy. These two expenditure categories total $3,120,700 and staff is recommending $2,358,893 of reimbursement.

Information courtesy of the City of Clearwater; Feature photo by PublicDomainPictures on Pixabay

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