COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. (KRDO) -- City leaders are calling it a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity; getting federal money to pay for projects that otherwise wouldn't be funded with local dollars.
That possibility exists because of the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The city will receive $93 million from the American Rescue Plan Act -- $76 million for a variety of projects and another $17 million specifically for housing needs.
Much of the $76 million will pay for certain infrastructure projects and business/economic recovery; some of it has already been spent on pay increases for public safety personnel.
"There wasn't enough in our budget for pay raises," said Charae McDaniel, the city's chief financial officer. "With the funding, we were able to give them up to 3% of their salary. The funding also prevented us from laying off employees and reducing services."
The remaining $17 million will finance rental payment assistance and a variety of services for the homeless.
Steve Posey, the city's community development manager, said: "We have about 200 units that are specifically for folks who are trying to exit homelessness, and it's a very supportive type of housing model where the tenants actually have access to the services and support that they need to stay safely housed. We feel like we need about 200 more units of that type of housing here in the community."
Some council members expressed concern about other intended uses of the federal money, such as $10 million for watering systems for city-owned golf courses and cemeteries.
Jeff Greene, chief of staff for Mayor John Suthers, said that the irrigation projects are a high priority because of aging infrastructure.
"Those are examples of what the city has not funded well in the past," he said. "Updating those systems will cut water usage by at least 20 percent."
Other council members questioned allocating $2.5 million as part of a proposed plan to renovate the City Auditorium and possibly transfer its ownership to a private organization.
"I'm very sensitive to the citizens and the constituents who have concerns about giving up the City Auditorium to a nonprofit that would run it, and maybe not have the benefits that it has had historically," said Tom Strand, council president. "So I want to look hard at that City Auditorium issue."
Among other targets for funding: $8.3 million for a stormwater project in the North Nevada Avenue corridor; $8 million to rebuild the Senior Center; and $5 million to upgrade the police computer-aided dispatch system.
To see the entire spending list, visit: https://coloradosprings.legistar.com/View.ashx?M=F&ID=9791609&GUID=4DFF72E5-F68E-4BFF-97E3-61B97BDDBAEA and https://coloradosprings.legistar.com/View.ashx?M=F&ID=9791600&GUID=F1038494-CCEB-41D4-B93F-609528BCD331.