GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. — A work session Friday morning gave the Kent County Board of Commissioners the opportunity to weigh in on how American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funding should be prioritized. A total of $127.6 million in ARPA funding has been allocated for Kent County.
The agenda posted for the meeting stipulates the session is not a voting or decision-making exercise, but rather that the data collected will help county staff create a series of ARPA funding packages to consider at the end of the year.
Project by project, commissioners voted with remotes on a number of proposals that ranged from affordable housing and education to public safety and mental health.
According to a funding proposal catalogue on Kent County’s website, there were 319 community project proposals and 13 internal county projects.
"While we've not done it before, it was important for us to begin to draw on all of the commissioners experience and sense of priority by looking at all of the projects, reading over the projects, and doing so in a public way," said Kent County Board of Commissioners Chair Stan Stek. "Someone suggested otherwise – just send in your grades – we didn't think that was appropriate. We wanted to do this where the public could observe how we're doing, that we're doing it in a responsible way."
Commissioners chose from five different options – they denoted each project priority as low, somewhat, moderate, important or high. The results of each vote were displayed to the public in real-time during the meeting, though commissioners’ votes weren’t individually identified.
Stek said he's been struck with how much public input the process has received.
"I'm not sure that there's any other public entity like Kent County that has done it to this extent, by way of taking these ARPA dollars, making them available for the community itself to go out and find how they can best use these funds to transform what's going on in their lives," he said. "Instead of just simply spending all the money internally – instead of just doing our department cost analysis or spending it on their requests – we've gone out to the community and said we really think you have a good feel for what's going on in the community. Let's hear from you, how you think these dollars can most transform Kent County. So we're excited about doing it this way."
A special evening board meeting for commissioners to consider and vote to approved recommended funding packages is set for Nov. 14.
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