THE OWOSSO CITY COUNCIL met on Monday, Aug. 30 for a special meeting to gather input from residents on ARPA funding.

   Dave Acton, representing the Owosso Historical Commission, is shown talking to city council members.

(Independent Photo/Karen Mead-Elford)


  American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funding disbursement is a hot topic in Shiawassee County, as many know regarding the Shiawassee Board of Commissioners problematic July 15 meeting and hazard pay vote. Yet, even prior to that mid-July vote, the city of Owosso was already considering a fair process in distributing the federal funds, interested in encouraging residents to partake in related discussions.

   Owosso City Council met at city hall for a special meeting on Monday, Aug. 30, offering a public ARPA funding discussion toward creating a list of possible projects for consideration to receive portions of the money. Several representatives of nonprofit groups and government organizations attended to offer input.

   The special meeting was not intended as a decision-making meeting, but more as a means for council members to gather information, focusing on narrowing down to create a process that might best benefit the entire Owosso community.

   Owosso City Manager Nathan Henne offered a special presentation on ARPA funding to council members during the Monday, Aug. 2 regular council meeting. The city is set to receive two payments totaling roughly $1.51 million – one in 2021 and another in 2022 – that can cover expenditures beginning last March. The council must decide how to distribute the money before December 31, 2024 and all of the money must be spent before December 31, 2026. Henne offered detailed information as defined through the Michigan Department of Treasury on how ARPA funding can be spent. City accountants have since determined the city’s pandemic revenue loss was set at about $765,000, which would allow the city to use that sum of money to make up for that loss … if that is what is decided in upcoming months.

   Organizations present included the Shiawassee Arts Center, Friends of the Shiawassee River, Shiawassee Family YMCA, Owosso Historical Commission and the Owosso Branch of the Shiawassee District Library.

   Kirk Riley, the new executive director of the Friends of the Shiawassee River (FOSR), expressed concerns about Sanitary Sewer Overflows (SSO) – a problem that the city of Owosso has struggled with several times. Gary Burk, FOSR board member, mentioned replacing lead water service lines and to coordinate efforts to also remove/replace sewer service lines. Burk also mentioned rehabilitating the green space along Jerome Street, possibly removing the bus garage, which is located on a river floodway.

   Shiawassee District board member Jamie Semans described much needed work to the city-owned, historic library building on the corner of Main and M-52, particularly toward replacing a chair lift to finally make the library ADA accessible. Speaking for the Owosso Historical Commission, Dave Acton brought up downtown sidewalk issues and the possibility of building an ADA compliant ramp at the Gould House.

   YMCA Chief Executive Officer Laura Archer suggested a possible partnership with the city to utilize ARPA funds reflective of a recent survey the Shiawassee Family YMCA initiated. Archer shared she would like to see the YMCA become even more of a community center for the city.

   Owosso Mayor Chris Eveleth explained he appreciated the participation between nonprofit representatives/residents and council members, calling the meeting a “productive effort in democracy.”

   Council members discussed offering a broad based survey to gather even more information from residents. Council member Nick Pidek questioned how to later measure the success of ARPA allocations. Council member Rob Teich thought establishing a list of possible projects with suggested dollar amounts would be a useful tool in helping to figure out a disbursement process and council member Janae Fear suggested having a timeline in place.

   Eveleth thoughtfully added that the Monday evening meeting was actually “just the beginning” in the ARPA funding process under the city of Owosso.

   The next city council meeting is planned for Tuesday, Sept. 7, following the Labor Day holiday.

Owosso Works Toward Positive ARPA Disbursement Model was last modified: September 7th, 2021 by Karen Elford