CFO: Springfield has ample time, opportunity to use COVID recovery funds

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SPRINGFIELD – There is ample time and opportunity to decide on the use of $ 123.7 million in federal COVID-19 recovery funds, the city’s chief financial officer said this week.

Chief Financial Officer Timothy J. Plante discussed the issue at Monday’s city council meeting after some councilors said they felt left out of the process.

“So far, I have to be honest, it’s not a good start,” Ward 8 councilor Orlando Ramos said. “At the moment, it doesn’t seem like a very inclusive process. “

General Councilor Kateri Walsh agrees.

“City council should have a bigger role or we should at least have our initiatives or concerns taken into account for this funding and allocation,” she said.

Other councilors disagreed, saying administration officials under Mayor Domenic J. Sarno provided updates to councilors during subcommittee meetings.

Some councilors have been unhappy since learning in early August that Sarno had approved the use of $ 2.7 million in relief funds to buy three downtown office buildings. Other advisers praised the purchase, which is intended to guide future use of key buildings near MGM Springfield. The buildings are located at 113-115 State St., 1139-1155 Main St. and 11-21 Stockbridge St.

Plante told councilors that only a few decisions have been made regarding American Recovery Plan Act spending, and input from councilors and the public is encouraged, including during an ongoing listening tour involving the mayor. and other senior city officials.

The recommendations are to be passed on to Plante and municipal attorney Thomas Moore, who is director of the new Business Resumption and Continuity Department, Plante said.

City councilors have also scheduled virtual community meetings to get residents’ feedback on spending priorities. The meetings, scheduled by Councilors Tracye Whitfield and Justin Hurst, are scheduled for September 22 and October 6 at 6 p.m.

Whitfield, chair of the finance committee, said there had been several meetings to discuss federal funds. Moore has made it clear that he wants advisers to be involved in the process, she said.

Plante said buildings in the city center had been the subject of a foreclosure auction process, creating an urgency for the city to act.

Other uses of the already moving US stimulus package include granting bonuses to hundreds of city employees who were deemed to have acted beyond their normal duties in providing essential services during the pandemic, said Plante.

All of the city’s US bailout money must be committed for uses by 2024 and must be spent by 2026, Plante said.

The administration hears many ideas and strategies for the use of the funds and expects this to continue in future meetings, Plante said.

Common themes include job creation and retention, workforce development, neighborhood beautification, sidewalks, neighborhood dynamism efforts, rental assistance, mortgage assistance and make the city more accessible on foot, said Plante.

There will be a first round of requests for proposals in October, Plante said. The city will endeavor to work with bidders and assist with revisions where possible, he said.

Sarno has created seven categories of fund use: job creation / economic development, capital projects, and support for businesses, nonprofits, seniors, neighborhoods and housing.



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