ST. PETERSBURG — Workforce townhomes, a new water testing lab and a “festival street” are among the projects that the city would pursue with $45.4 million in American Rescue Plan act funding.
City officials on Monday presented an updated list of projects and initiatives they’d like to see funded with the city’s share of the nearly $2 trillion federal stimulus passed by Congress in March. The city has already received half of the money, and the other half will come next summer. It must be spent by Dec. 31, 2024 or, if allocated as part of a capital project, by Dec. 31, 2026.
Individual projects will come back to the council for approval before the money is spent.
Back in July, the city held three workshops to let the public rank issues that they’d like to see funded. Housing affordability and support got the most votes, followed by health and social equity, infrastructure, economic recovery and resilience and public health and safety.
At an August meeting, city officials presented a budget that allocated the $45 million among those five categories, with housing getting $15 million and public health and safety receiving $3 million. But the city’s presentation on Monday looked much different.
Affordable housing got a $5 million increase for a total of $20 million, and the public health and safety’s allocation was reduced to $651,900 — all for ionization systems to improve air quality inside police and fire rescue buildings.
A chunk of the affordable housing allocation would go toward building 24 workforce townhomes in the Deuces Rising project on 22nd Street S. Families of four with incomes of $88,560 or less would be eligible.
City officials said proceeds from those townhomes will be returned to the city’s housing fund for a recurring affordable housing budget.
The entire allocation for infrastructure, just over $8 million, would go toward building a new water testing lab. The city’s public works administrator, Claude Tankersley, said the existing lab is “obsolete.” That project will be ready for council approval by spring or summer 2022, Tankersley said.
The “festival street” proposed for 22nd Street S in the Deuces area is part of the economic recovery and resiliency’s $5.5 million cut. It’ll be a car-free outdoor gathering space.
City Council members worried about how mayor-elect Ken Welch and three incoming City Council members would feel about the current council making decisions. Council member Robert Blackmon asked if Welch has been apprised of the plans or whether he has given any feedback. Deputy Mayor Kanika Tomalin said no.
“I do just kind of err on the side of caution and respect for those who were elected and are coming in,” said council member Brandi Gabbard. “They’re going to have their own opinion for the way they spend those dollars.”
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Tomalin pointed out that the council was not appropriating any money, but just talking about general direction. The funding will be up for grabs for organizations through grants or requests for proposals. Tomalin said the quickest timeline for a request for bids is six weeks.
Council member Amy Foster, who is leaving the council in January, said she understood that concern but disagreed, pointing out that spending $45 million in a short timeframe will be difficult.
“We have all lived with decisions that previous bodies have made,” Foster said.