The Dunwoody City Council has approved a budget for its American Rescue Plan (ARP) funding.
The council approved the ARP budget at its June 13 meeting. The item was originally on the meeting’s consent agenda, but the council voted to move it to the business items section after one resident, Bob Hickey, requested they do so during public comment because he didn’t think the budget was specific enough and did not think it had been thoroughly “vetted.”
The American Rescue Plan Act of 2021 is a federal economic stimulus bill meant to help the country recover from economic and health impacts from the COVID-19 pandemic. The council voted to create a committee called the American Rescue Plan and Grants Committee in April and tasked that committee with finding ways the city could spend its roughly $18.4 million in ARP funding. That committee met for the first time on May 13, and the city held three public town halls in May to discuss the proposed ARP budget along with a possible bond referendum.
The city originally took $10 million of its ARP allotment as revenue replacement, but at an April meeting, the council voted to use that $10 million to create a second ARP fund. This second fund would not have the same federal requirements or timeline as the original ARP funding, which must be obligated towards projects by the end of 2024, and spent by the end of 2026.
According to the U.S. Department of the Treasury’s website, the first half of ARP funding was provided to local municipalities in May of 2021, and the second half is scheduled to be delivered approximately a year later. However, Mayor Lynn Deutsch said the city has still only received the first part of the funding.
“We’ve only gotten half this money, and it’s June,” Deutsch said. “I was skeptical with the first half, and I’m skeptical with the second half.”
The approved ARP 1 budget designates $3 million towards Perimeter Center East Park, $500,000 towards wayfinding signage, and roughly $4.9 million towards stormwater programs.
The final ARP 2 fund designates $2 million towards direct assistance to non-profit organizations. The city has already designated $200,000 toward a summer school program. In addition, $300,000 will be allocated toward administrative costs for a third-party vendor to have oversight on applications and spending, according to city documents.
Also in ARP 2, $1.5 million is designated for “recreational equity,” which is meant to set aside funds for the city to purchase land and develop park facilities in underserved areas. The city has also set aside $1 million for improvements to cybersecurity and $1 million for economic development.
Another $1 million has been designated toward a “social services incubator,” which would be used to “purchase and rehab a building which will then live on as rental space for local not-for-profits,” according to city documents. The building would be meant to serve as a “one-stop shop” for social services.
One million dollars is also set aside for public safety and policing. The city has already designated roughly $270,000 for three years of funding for a mental health co-responder program, and during the June 13 meeting also approved $171,450 for additional License Plate Recognition (LPR) cameras and “gunshot detection capabilities to a problematic area of the city, and advanced search capabilities with our current LPR vendor.”
According to city documents, Flock Safety – which is the company that provides the department with LPRs – also has an audio detection device called “Raven” that can integrate with the cameras. The device is meant to recognize sounds like gunshots, screeching tires, and breaking glass, and alert the nearest camera. According to a city spokesperson, the city plans to use gunshot detection software on the east side of the city along Peachtree Industrial Boulevard.
About $558,000 of the police and public safety funding is also expected to be used to hire one sergeant and three police officers for the department’s Street Crimes Unit. According to city documents, this funding will not be used until the department is at full staff.
Five hundred thousand dollars is allocated towards public safety and lighting, $250,000 towards city supplies and services, and $200,000 towards grant writing.
A full explanation of the budget can be found on the city’s website.