Here is the report that Village Manager Bryan Gruesbeck presented to council at the regular meeting on April 18, 2022.
American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA): During the previous meeting you mentioned the need to determine a plan or ideas to spend money received as part of the ARPA disbursements which were approved in 2021. As we have discussed, the Village was allotted $169,040 which is to be distributed to the Village in two (2) annual payments. We received first payment of $84,520 in September 2021; the second payment of $84,520 will be distributed in September 2022. The Village must determine how the money will be spent by the end of 2024 and it must spend it by 2026. A progress report is due at the end of this month. To date, the Village has not spent or committed any ARPA funds.
Other communities have used various means of determining how to spend their ARPA money. Larger communities receive more money and will use more sophisticated approaches to deciding how to allocate across various expenditures and projects. Likewise, smaller communities receiving relatively less money will generally choose a smaller number of projects or expenditures. The Village of Elk Rapids appears to be in the latter category.
Over the past year, there has been much formal and informal discussion of housing needs in the Village and the area. While this problem isn’t unique to Elk Rapids, the problem is making other problems worse (worker shortages and school depopulations are a couple things that come to mind). Formally, we have identified housing challenges in the 13 Ways report and other strategic planning discussions. We have also facilitated a Housing Task Force which has described the local need in a community-wide mailing that will be arriving in mailboxes this week. This group has repeatedly discussed the need for a local housing project.
We could easily identify other things that have been identified as strategically important – water quality, infrastructure replacement and staff retention come to mind. I have also been interested in re-establishing a downtown façade improvement program like the grant-funded process the Village used a few years ago. Whatever path we choose, impact is important: how can we make the most impact with a limited amount of money?
I recommend that we commit all or most of this funding to incentivize or create a local housing project (or projects). Alternatively, you could revisit your strategic plan and determine priorities and distribute ARPA funds accordingly. I am interested to hear what direction you would like to go.
Dredging: The Edward C. Grace Memorial Harbor is undergoing a dredging project starting on Monday April 18, 2022. The sand and other sediments will be stored on Veterans Memorial Beach until the project is completed, at which point the contractor will haul the sediment away. The trench has already been dug and the village has posted for the public to use caution when visiting the beach for the duration of the project.
Rotary Park Improvements: On Wednesday April 13, 2022 I joined Paddle Antrim Director Deana Jardee in presenting the Rotary Park Improvement plan to Rotary Charities. In this meeting we discussed how this project can help businesses in the downtown district and how we can connect the east and west sides of US 31.
Trail Town: As of Tuesday April 12, 2022, The Village of Elk Rapids received the Pure Michigan ® designation of a Trail Town. Thank you to all the dedicated community members who worked on this and made it happen.