City Council discusses distribution of American Rescue Plan Funding

Sierra Martin | Managing Editor

On Tuesday, April 20, 2022, at 3 p.m., the San Marcos City Council met for a Work Session and received a presentation regarding the distribution of the second round of American Rescue Plan Funding (ARP). 

The presentation included 19 staff recommended funding requests to move forward with ARP Funding after councilmember approval. Additional staff identified community programs and funding requests will be reviewed after receiving input from a community survey.  

In Round 1 of ARP Funding, $9.05 million was allocated, with $6.73 million remaining. $2.77 million has been spent on public health response, negative economic impacts, services to disproportionately impacted communities and infrastructure. 

According to the presentation by San Marcos Interim City Manager Stephanie Reyes, departments have submitted 64 funding requests that totaled over $26 million. 

“This is about us being able- as a team, as a staff- to be able to respond to pandemics like we have with COVID and any other emergency situation in the future,” said Reyes. “It is really important for us to have the right infrastructure in place. It is important for us to have learned from what were the things that could have strengthened our position going forward.” 

The 19 recommended funding requests from staff total $4,430,000 and include: $415,000 for a network specialist, $425,000 for Mental Health Clinician Collaboration and $400,000 for Five Mile Dam Soccer Complex lighting.

“You know, we just wanted to give council the flexibility of knowing there’s ideas here, and your staff has been working hard to try to identify some of those ideas, but we didn’t want to overstep the boundaries that you gave us,” said Reyes. “And that was stay within $4.5 million for things that we will consider looking at spending outside of a community survey process.”

Councilmember Maxfield Baker said he wasn’t very supportive of spending $400,000 of the ARP Funding on lighting at the Five Mile Dam Soccer Complex because he thinks there are more significant needs in the community.

“Like, okay, they have longer times to wait or less access to the soccer fields,” said Baker. “As opposed to people living on the street not having food, not having shelter, I think we need to keep those stark contrasts in mind.”

Councilmember Mark Gleason said he supports waiting until after the community survey to allocate a portion of the ARP Funding.

“I think the community should get some input on exactly what we want to do with some of this, but I am going to request… there’s two or three things on here that I don’t think are really large amounts that I think will make an immediate impact,” said Gleason.

Gleason requested that $5,400 towards providing Chromebooks to library programs and $10,000 towards funding two years of homeless camp cleanup be moved up to the staff recommended programs.

Councilmember Alyssa Garza said that she agrees with Gleason on prioritizing the homeless camp cleanup. While speaking to community members, Garza said she received positive feedback about funding an Equity Program Coordinator for four years at $400,000 and would be interested in providing funding to it regardless of the outcome of the survey. 

“I just don’t see how we’re going to be able to take equity seriously unless we prioritize the Equity Program Coordinator,” said Garza. “Even with just, like this preliminary presentation, as I was talking to my neighbors in Sunset Acres and Victory Gardens recently, the issues related to equity were brought up in just about every conversation.”

Mayor Jane Hughson suggested moving the $800,000 home rehabilitation program by Mission Able to the list of those that could receive funding before the outcome of the community survey.

“I think that’s incredibly important. And here’s what I’m concerned about, is the folks that are trying to stay in their homes, which is their affordable home, is the homes are deteriorating day by day…” said Hughson.

Councilmember Saul Gonzales said he would like to move up the Tree Removal Program for private property owners, which would receive $135,000 of ARP Funding.

Hughson also said she would like to move up the funding for Mobile message signs ($96,000), Permanent LED message signs ($75,000) and Neighborhood signage ($600) community programs. 

Councilmember Shane Scott suggested providing $850,000 of ARP funding to City Park Playground improvements and said it is important considering children had to stay at home during the pandemic. 

Councilmembers voted to move the following community programs to the list to receive ARP Funding before receiving community feedback: Providing Chromebooks to the library, homeless camp cleanup, home rehabilitation by Mission Able, the Tree Removal Program and all three signage programs.

Providing lights to the Five Mile Dam Soccer Complex, Downtown Events, and Website Accessibility Audit and Compliance Upgrade were all kept on the list but moved to be considered to receive funding after the community survey. Providing an Equity Program Coordinator and City Park Playground improvements were kept on the list of items to consider funding after community feedback is received. 

The next step moving forward with the ARP Funding recommendations is determining the requester’s eligibility and capacity to administer the funds. Additionally, a final list of funding requests will come back to the council’s consideration during the budget process, and a plan will be determined for how the remaining funds will be allocated. 

“We’ll bring things back during your June Budget Workshops for final decision,” said Reyes. “And then after that, we’ll go ahead, and we’ll have the conversation on the Community Survey. And then once we get that back, we’ll bring the additional requests that you’ve deferred here and then any other themes that come up as a result of that survey.”

In the executive session, councilmembers received a briefing on the possible property acquisition downtown for a future fire station. Additionally, the council received legal advice from the city attorney regarding enforcing provisions in ground leases and facility leases at the San Marcos Regional Airport.

A copy of the full agenda packet that included the presentation can be found here. A complete video of the Work Session can be found here. More information on the San Marcos City Council can be found on their website

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