Saline Leaders Make Case for Projects in $100 Million Washtenaw Recovery Plan

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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.

The survey (click here) will be up until the end of August. The public can also provide feedback at the county's Ways and Means/Board of Commissioners meeting Aug. 4 or a work session Aug. 5.

For more information, click here.

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I took the survey and was astounded how the County wants to use our tax dollars on so much unrelated to covid/shutdown relief. I'm with Holli, use the dollars for businesses to make up rent, etc., from being shutdown or restricted and to help employees. Much of the rest of it is a money grab for things that have little or nothing to do with actual pandemic relief...things and programs that government wants to expand, implement or fix.

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I took it yesterday and had to refer to a printout I had to see which were things listed as "will be implemented soon", Assessed and revisited annually", "More Planning needed", or "Ready to go".   Also like a lot of government funding it had more details on what it is likely to be. 

Not sure if the Investing in County Government Infrastructure includes both cybersecurity protection and the year 2038 problem.  Some old programs are limited only go until 03:14:07 on Tuesday January 19, 2038.  Note sure if software security is COVID related, but if software from prior to 2000 is in use it might make sense to get upgrade with protection of date issue or new system with guarentee to work for several decades, but if software is upgraded or tested for cyber security it should at bare minimum include a report on date limits in the system for future purchase/upgrade decisions.

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