A push for public engagement topped Monday night’s city council meeting, with Mayor Barbara Buffaloe asking city staff to prepare an update on the American Rescue Plan Act fund proposals.
Buffaloe tasked City Manager De’Carlon Seewood with preparing a bulleted list by the May 16 council meeting outlining the status of the RFP and community engagement process for four key areas: homelessness , community violence, workforce development and mental health services. In October, the Council announced these priority areas for the first $12.5 million in ARPA funds.
“That could be especially helpful for (those) newer members of council,” Buffaloe said, during his second meeting as mayor. “There had been talks of quick updates for those (who could) help manage this.”
Buffaloe’s request for an official update was part of a unanimous push by the board for increased transparency and community engagement around ARPA funds.
Several council members offered potential methods to improve engagement, including Ward One council member Pat Fowler’s suggestion to consider using city funds to strengthen the planning process.
Third Ward council member Karl Skala then suggested reviving a door-to-door practice, asking city officials to visit communities and ask people what the city could do for them. help them feel safe.
“It’s really an opportunity for us to walk the walk that we talked about with community engagement,” added Andrea Waner, a member of the second ward council.
The Board also voted to allow GoCOMO to hire drivers specifically for its paratransit service in hopes of easing pressure on staff and meeting high demand. The hope is that the new position will reduce the strain on full-service drivers who currently have to split their efforts between para and regular service.
The bus service is down about 40% of its staff, leading to some reductions in service. In response to these staffing issues, bus drivers have been working 12 mandatory overtime hours per week since August 2021.
Also on Monday night, city council directed city staff to continue negotiations with Logboat Brewing Company on a proposed lease agreement for municipal land along the Colt Railroad.
Due to an impending expansion, the brewery needs to build an additional parking lot and would like to lease municipal land to do so. City staff sought guidance from council on Monday after disagreements over the annual rental rate.
Citing the additional improvements and taxpayer dollars the expansion would bring to the city, the brewery has offered a rental rate of $1 per year for the 3,707 square feet of land it wants to lease along Lane Road. iron. This is in juxtaposition with the city’s suggested starting payment of $4,262 per year, which is based on average market value.
Skeptical of the $1-a-year figure, the board advised staff to resume negotiations to try to bring the amount closer to market value. However, they also recognized the value that will be added by other improvements planned by the brewery and asked City staff to take this into account during negotiations.
These improvements include the widening of Rue Fay, increased lighting and new sidewalks.
“The neighborhood desperately needs it,” Logboat rep Tyson Hunt said.
In addition, the municipal council took the first step towards approving a proposal for a 3% wage increase for all municipal employees not represented by unions. The issue will now be addressed at an upcoming meeting as negotiations continue between union representatives and City staff regarding raises for unionized employees. Council also confirmed the upcoming vote on banning the city’s rolling carts, which will be on the May 16 agenda.