City councils have preliminary talks about new relief money

Northglenn and Thornton hope to spend some federal relief funding on infrastructure projects

Liam Adams
ladams@coloradocommunitymedia.com
Posted 7/26/21

With new tranches of federal pandemic relief funding, the cities of Thornton and Northglenn are figuring out how they want to spend the money. Northglenn is receiving $9.7 million, and Thornton is …

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City councils have preliminary talks about new relief money

Northglenn and Thornton hope to spend some federal relief funding on infrastructure projects

Posted

With new tranches of federal pandemic relief funding, the cities of Thornton and Northglenn are figuring out how they want to spend the money.

Northglenn is receiving $9.7 million, and Thornton is receiving $22 million from the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) that President Joe Biden signed into law in March. Both cities want to spend about 10% of the total funding by the end of the year and the remaining total from between 2022 to 2024.

The cities have received one half of their total allocations and will receive the second half next year. All the money must be spent by Dec. 31, 2024.

The 10% that Thornton and Northglenn would like to spend this year would be for less expensive programs that address immediate needs of the community. Northglenn would like to allocate $1 million this year to rental and utility billing assistance grants for residents and businesses, similar to how many cities spent money last year from the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act.

This year, Thornton would like to put $3 million towards a business startup grant program, the Alliance Business Assistance Center, non-profit COVID-related grants, and the Eastlake Grain Elevator Development, according to a city staff presentation at a council planning session on July 6.

The two cities haven’t identified the specific projects they would put the remaining 90% of the ARPA money towards, but that’s why staff need more time. Unlike CARES, municipalities have more flexibility with how they spend ARPA dollars. They can use it to invest in water and sewer systems, infrastructure, such as streets, and broadband to provide internet to underserved households.

With future years’ spending, “The intention would be to focus more on the long term, bigger project impacts that the city can have through infrastructure projects, specifically,” said Jason Loveland, Northglenn’s finance director, at a city council meeting on July 20.

Infrastructure costs can add up quickly, so the cities are looking at how they can use ARPA funding in conjunction with city money to pay for infrastructure needs.

Covering infrastructure needs serves the wider community, Northglenn Mayor Pro Tem Jenny Willford said at the July 20 meeting. She said, “If 90% of the funding going to infrastructure projects, it means that we’re putting people back to work.”

Also, the cities can use the funding to compensate for lost revenue in 2020. Loveland said he recently requested approval from the U.S. Department of the Treasury for a $1.5 million revenue replacement. The city hasn’t heard back yet.

In addition to ARPA money coming down the line, Thornton is positioning itself to potentially receive additional funding from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). City staff asked council at a July 13 meeting to vote to continue the city’s emergency declaration.

Thornton Mayor Pro Tem Jessica Sandgren asked why the city needed to continue its emergency declaration, even though the state technically ended its emergency order. City Manager Kevin Woods explained that the federal government’s emergency declaration is still in effect until at least September, and with Thornton’s emergency declaration staying in place, the city could still be eligible for potential FEMA funding.

“The FEMA money can cover some of our costs, currently. So, if we use some of our FEMA money, we wouldn’t be using our money that can be used for other things in the community,” Woods said.

Thornton City Council voted 8-1 to approve the declaration’s continuation, with Councilwoman Angie Bedolla casting the dissenting vote. Meanwhile, Northglenn City Council voted unanimously at the July 20 meeting to end Northglenn’s emergency declaration.

Neither council made formal decisions on ARPA expenditures, but the majority of both councils were supportive of the big-picture plans.

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