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City Beat: Council considers uses for final $1.4M in ARPA funds

Activist group makes case for funding housing needs

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The clock is ticking on the city’s use of its remaining $1.4 million in American Rescue Plan Act funds, and a bill introduced at the March 11 Springfield City Council meeting would allocate the funds to the Cooper Park/Lake Country Soccer and Killian Softball complexes as well as Historic City Hall.

By law, the federal funds must be allocated before the end of this year and spent before 2027, according to Deputy City Manager Collin Quigley.

The council bill, which is up for a vote March 25, would assign $900,000 to Cooper/Killian improvements and $500,000 to renovate Historic City Hall. Cooper/Killian has already received $7.3 million in ARPA funds, and Historic City Hall was previously allocated $4 million from ARPA.

The members of tenants’ rights organization Springfield Tenants Unite have a different idea of how the last of the city’s ARPA funds should be spent. Four members spoke against the proposed allocations during the bill’s public hearing to make a case for putting the money toward housing and homelessness.

Alice Barber, who described herself as a leader of the organization, said she was concerned about council priorities for the final ARPA funds.

“In a city where one in three households live in or near poverty, we are proposing to put nearly $1 million into sports facilities and tourism that have received millions already instead of using those precious funds to help our own residents, and that’s not right,” she said.

Barber said she is glad the city wants to invest in the park, since she wants it to be there for decades to come for local families. However, she said the proposal was aimed at attracting tourists who would bring in business and generate tax revenue.

She noted that much of that tax revenue doesn’t go back to the tenants her organization represents; instead, through taxes, money spent on lodging goes right back into tourism promotion, sporting events and arts promotion, she said.

“City residents are consistent tax revenue sources, too – until we aren’t, when we become homeless,” she said. “We must prioritize the people that live in Springfield because this helps our community remain safe, helps workers keep showing up for work, helps students keep going to school without interruption and keeps us spending and providing tax revenue in Springfield all year round.”

Barber offered three alternative recipients for the ARPA funds: the Springfield Community Land Trust to abate blighted properties and put the homes back into use, the Ozarks Alliance to End Homelessness for its rapid rehousing and eviction diversion program, or the Ozarks Area Community Action Corp. for its rental assistance and stabilization programs.

Barber requested that council postpone a vote on the bill until after its April 2 retreat, when members intend to discuss housing and homelessness.

“Springfield cannot throw away almost $1 million on attracting tourists to an already well-funded attraction when there are people right here, right now in this city whose lives could be immeasurably changed by those funds,” she said.

The truncated council – members Craig Hosmer, Derek Lee and Matthew Simpson were absent from the meeting – did not offer questions or a response to the STUN contingent, but before the public comment period, member Brandon Jenson asked for a rundown of how much ARPA funding has already been allocated to housing and homelessness.

Quigley said the city had received some $40.3 million in ARPA funds. He outlined city ARPA housing and homelessness allocations totaled more than $9.5 million, as follows:

  • $3 million for a Community Partnership of the Ozarks Inc. purpose-driven day center, which is intended to provide a daytime place for people experiencing homelessness.
  • $2.7 million for a noncongregate shelter.
  • $1.1 million for a congregate shelter for the Council of Churches of the Ozarks Inc.
  • $1 million for Restore SGF, which is focused on affordable housing and homeownership.
  • $650,000 for a respite care, shower and outreach facility for The Connecting Grounds.
  • $564,000 toward an affordable housing homeownership program.
  • $500,000 for a citywide housing study.

An additional ARPA allocation through a U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development Home community development block grant program included $3.8 million with an extra CDBG Home-ARP reserve of $1.5 million for a sum of $5.3 million.

The grand total of federal ARPA funds allocated to homelessness and housing projects is $14.9 million, Quigley said.

The Cooper/Killian project, estimated at $30 million overall, is funded through several sources, Quigley said, including ARPA, state money, level property tax bonding, level property tax pay-as-you-go, carryover funding, parks fund balance and Springfield Convention & Visitors Bureau and private support. Work planned includes turf and light improvements, and seating and concession upgrades that Quigley said would make the facilities competitive to attract national, regional and state tournaments.

The Historic City Hall project, estimated at $16 million overall, includes previously allocated ARPA funds, carryover funds – including $4.5 million approved earlier in the meeting – and level property tax funds.

A construction manager at-risk has been at work on the Historic City Hall project, and Quigley said that has resulted in a lot of up-to-date information about the project.

“Based on where we’re at right now with our construction manager at-risk and the design development phase where we’re at now, we feel strongly that this will complete the project,” he said.

He added that the first phase of Cooper/Killian resulted in cost efficiencies, and the second phase is currently out for bid. He said the hope is that with the savings that have been realized, the $900,000 allocation would cover the remaining expenses. That won’t be known until bidding is complete, he said.

Other action items

  • The Sunshine Towne Center Community Improvement District was approved for the shopping center planned at the intersection of West Bypass and Sunshine Street. Through the CID, a 1% sales and use tax can be assessed within the district to reimburse the developer for $4 million in public improvements. The city’s second Target store, to be located in the shopping center, is not in the CID.
  • Carryover funds of nearly $6.5 million from fiscal 2023 were allocated to Historic City Hall renovations, $4.5 million; Fire Department self-contained breathing apparatus, $1.4 million; a Public Works Americans with Disabilities Act transitional plan assessment, $200,000; Cooper/Killian improvement project, $188,000; and crisis cold weather shelter funding, $100,000.

• First readings were held for two land-use measures. One would rezone 4.3 acres at 3333 W. Battlefield Road to general retail from single-family residential for construction of a small office development. South Creek Development Corp. is the applicant. The other would rezone 4.2 acres at Pythian and Scott streets and Hampton and National avenues to government and institutional from residential townhouse. The property owner and applicant, Ozarks Technical Community College, plans to build an off-street parking facility, according to the measure. A vote will be held March 25 for both measures.


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