Editor’s note: This story is part of a Dayton Daily News investigative project titled Billions in COVID aid: Where it’s going. Go here for more on this project, including searchable databases showing how your community spent CARES Act funds and now much it is getting in American Rescue Plan funds.
Montgomery County commissioners are considering using federal American Rescue Plan funds for more than $10 million in community projects, the largest so far being $4 million for improvements at Day Air Ballpark, where the Dayton Dragons play.
This is a change from county officials’ original proposal to use the $103.3 million ARPA funds almost exclusively to maintain and improve county services.
Commissioner Debbie Lieberman said Tuesday the previous proposal was just a “starting point,” and they are still contemplating the best use of ARPA funds. At this point they are looking at using “over $10 million” on community projects, but that could change, she said.
“We want to do those things that the community has said ... these are things that are very important, and yes we can use ARPA dollars for these things,” she said.
In response to a public records request from the Dayton Daily News for applications or awards for ARPA funding, the county provided award letters for nine projects totaling $8.4 million:
- $4 million to support a proposed $21.5 million reinvestment in Day Air Ballpark, home of the Dayton Dragons baseball team;
- $1 million to Cross Street Partners to support the Dayton Arcade project;
- $750,000 to Windsor Companies to support renovation of the Grant Deneau Tower;
- $750,000 to the city of West Carrollton for the West Carrollton Interchange and Whitewater Park Development;
- $500,000 to Ronald McDonald House Charities to support a new Ronald McDonald House in Dayton;
- $500,000 to the YMCA of Greater Dayton for a multipurpose facility at the former Good Samaritan hospital site at Salem Avenue and Philadelphia Drive in northwest Dayton;
- $450,000 to OH Taste for the 6888 Kitchen Incubator project at the Arcade;
- $250,000 to Miami Valley Child Development Centers, Inc. for the Lincoln Hill Child and Family Development Center project in east Dayton;
- $150,000 to Sunlight Village for the Healthy Family Market project on Germantown Street.
The Day Air Ballpark award would be paid over four years and is contingent upon commitments from others, such as $6 million from the city of Dayton.
Montgomery County officials say the county has already committed to spending the funds for the projects listed above; what they are looking into with input from outside consultants is whether to use ARPA or another funding source.
Governments have broad discretion in using ARPA funds. The city of Dayton, which is getting the most in the region, had a solicitation process for community groups to apply for funds and is spending millions in business and nonprofit assistance.
County Administrator Michael Colbert noted that the county used the vast majority of the previous CARES Act federal pandemic aid primarily for financial support to businesses, community organizations and individuals. The county did not have a solicitation process for ARPA funds.
Lieberman said the projects were identified based on already-identified community priorities.
Colbert said the county still intends to use the majority of its ARPA funds to invest in county services.
“With these ARPA funds, we are being very strategic in how we use them and the bulk will be used in county government for programs that service the public,” Colbert said. “But we are not rushing to spend these funds. We do not know what the future holds but the pandemic could continue to threaten our citizens and we anticipate an impending recession.”
Colbert said the county reallocated $29 million from its budget in 2020 to fund COVID-19 response and not have to lay off employees, but that caused vital infrastructure projects to be postponed.
“Now is the time to move forward with those strategic infrastructure investments that benefit us all,” he said.
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