Saline Leaders Make Case for Projects in $100 Million Washtenaw Recovery Plan
Members of Saline City Council and Saline Main Street Executive Director Holli Andrews staked Saline's claim to part of the Washtenaw Rescue Plan - an expected $100 million federal windfall the county expects to spend over the next six years.
The money comes from the $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan Act signed by President Joe Biden on March 11. The county has already received $35 million and expects another $35 million next year. In addition, according to District 3 County Commissioner Shannon Beeman, who held a townhall meeting at Saline City Hall Tuesday, the county is expecting another $29 million in federal funds.
While the County Board of Commissioners is collecting feedback on how to spend the funding in townhall meetings and using an internet survey (CLICK HERE TO TAKE THE SURVEY), many of the areas have already been decided.
"The guidelines for spending the money are very limiting," Beeman said.
The county commission has taken the federal criteria and determined the following areas for spending:
- Connecting Washtenaw County with broadband and WiFi.
- Addressing housing affordability and homelessness.
- Encouraging generational success with investments in child care and early childhood education.
- Creating a more sustainable community.
- Investments in health and wellbeing.
- Practicing good government
Saline's leaders made their pitches. Holli Andrews, Executive of the Saline Main Street downtown revitalization group, said she hoped the county could help businesses who were behind on their rent. She noted it would help the businesses and their landlords.
"We want to prevent empty storefronts and preserve our local character," Andrews said.
Beeman said there would be a component of the funding dedicated to economic development.
Mayor Brian Marl had three requests. He asked for the county to help fund the Saline Rec Center, to work with the city and Evangelical Homes of Michigan on senior housing similar to Mill Pond Manor, and to help the city establish an economic development trust fund that would help businesses with loans and grants.
“If there’s a way for the Rec Center to derive county funding, either through the rescue plan or some other initiative, that is something I’d like to explore with you,” Marl said.
Beeman expressed doubt that the recovery plan money could be used on the Rec Center, but said she would be interested in exploring ways to help the city maintain its recreational facility.
There were also questions from an in-person and virtual audience despite audio problems with the broadcast. One resident asked if the funding might help the city fund improvements at its wastewater treatment plant.
Beeman said this round of funding would not help with that. However, she said, a future federal infrastructure bill could.
Councillor Dean Girbach noted that as the city goes through the process of planning the rehab and expansion of its wastewater treatment plant, it will have a leg up for federal funding should it become available.
The county has until Dec. 31, 2024 to allocate the federal funds and then until Dec. 31, 2026 to implement its plan.
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