Mayor Kincannon, Caswell Park Unveiling of Electric Buses, Knoxville, September 2021
The following is the full press release from the city. I typically edit, select from and supplement press releases, but this one has a large amount of detail and the size of the city expenditure is such that I felt it worthwhile to share it directly. I think it is worth discussing here, but please keep your opinions respectful. In addition to discussing it here, you might want to let your city council representative know your thoughts before they vote next week.
Speaking of voting: Early voting starts today. It’s an important election with clear choices. Do your duty!
From the press release:
Mayor Indya Kincannon has proposed investing nearly $35 million – from American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funds or money freed up by other federal assistance – in a range of programs designed to stimulate economic and community development, enhance public safety and support first responders, fund infrastructure and park amenities, and boost social services and arts organizations.
“The entire country, including Knoxville, was hurt by COVID-19,” Mayor Kincannon said. “We were knocked down but not out. Fortunately, with this much-appreciated federal assistance, we can provide new resources to our community that help us recover from the pandemic and thrive in the years to come.
“Cities rightfully switched priorities during the pandemic to help families and individuals in need. Now, with this federal funding, we can also get back in full stride, investing strategically in things like roads, sidewalks and stormwater upgrades.”
City Council will be asked to approve the amendment to the City’s operating and capital budgets on the first of two readings at its Oct. 19, 2021 meeting.
ARPA requirements limit how funding may be used. Investing in public health, or some types of public infrastructure, is allowed, for example. So is addressing the negative economic impacts brought on by the biggest public health emergency in a century, as well as supplementing the pay of front-line workers like police officers and firefighters.
Highlights of the proposed allocation of the $21,226,706 in direct ARPA pandemic-relief funds:
$2 million to the Community Action Committee for transportation services and family-support services that address food and housing needs in hardest-hit communities
$1 million for non-congregate shelter and permanent supportive housing for those experiencing or at risk of homelessness; the plan is to convert a hotel building into individual supportive housing units, where residents will have access to social workers and services
More than $1 million for behavioral and mental-health treatment and services – the majority of that, $900,000 to be matched equally by Knox County, for purchasing a building for a proposed urgent care behavioral health facility on the City’s new Public Safety Complex campus in North Knoxville
$1 million to the United Way of Greater Knoxville to distribute as grants to local non-profit groups; this funding builds on the success of the United Way’s $1.1 million 2020 COVID-19 Response Fund
$1.3 million to the Arts and Culture Alliance to distribute as grants to support local arts and culture non-profits and projects, a sector hit particularly hard by the pandemic
$550,753 for additional COVID-19 mitigation, including a specialized ambulance and further workplace safety accommodations in the City County Building and other City facilities
$5 million to Knoxville Utilities Board (KUB) for water system projects, such as replacing older galvanized water pipes at locations across the city
$3.5 million for City stormwater projects: o$1.5 million for drainage infrastructure (including $1 million for the Bluegrass Lake Flooding Remediation Project, in partnership with Knox County)
o$800,000 to inventory and prioritize maintenance and repair of stormwater pipes
o$700,000 for dilapidated pipe remediation
o$500,000 for restoration of creeks and streams
$2.5 million to offset a portion of the higher-than-expected construction costs for the City’s Public Safety Complex; the pandemic triggered a sharp rise nationally in construction costs, including driving up the cost of the Public Safety Complex, which is set to open by the end of 2022
$150,000 for design of a Real Time Crime Center at the Public Safety Complex, a proven practice to help the Police Department more effectively respond to and address violent crime and other public safety matters
$2.58 million in “hero pay” to front-line City employees – premium pay that supports retention of police and fire employees, as well as other general government employees with direct exposure risk during the pandemic.
“At no point during the past year and a half did the City close, nor were any critical City services disrupted,” Mayor Kincannon said. “I am grateful that our dedicated, selfless City staff always puts the needs of our community first.”
In addition to the estimated $21 million in direct ARPA funds, millions more are available because of a Federal Transit Authority grant. These FTA funds allow the City to re-allocate $13.3 million in local funds that previously had been earmarked for transit.
In both the Fiscal Year 20-21 and FY 21-22 City budgets, funding for many capital projects were curtailed or eliminated due to the negative economic impacts and financial uncertainty of the pandemic.
“Thanks to these federal transit funds, we’re now able to re-appropriate local dollars and have no down-side effect on Knoxville Area Transit operations,” Mayor Kincannon said. “We will be prioritizing programs that put into action our core values.”
Some of the highlights:
$3 million for street resurfacing; with the cost of asphalt rising, the City’s $7.3 million already budgeted for paving wasn’t going to stretch far enough to address all the 2021-22 scheduled projects
$500,000 for signal poles on Gay Street
$100,000 for paving alleys and greenways
Healthy and connected neighborhoods
$1 million for neighborhood traffic calming: One of the City’s most popular programs, with 58 neighborhoods currently in the process of preparing or finalizing project proposals, the big increase in funding is intended to support improvements in an unprecedented number of neighborhoods compared to previous program years
$400,000 to Knoxville’s Community Development Corp. to support the “Transforming Western” revitalization vision for the Western Heights neighborhood
$740,000 for neighborhood park improvements
$500,000 to Ijams Nature Center to fund infrastructure upgrades addressed in Ijams’ master plan
$500,000 to acquire and sell blighted and chronic problem properties to private owners for reuse, usually as owner-occupied homes
$100,000 to the Beck Cultural Exchange Center to support restoration of the only remaining home of world-renowned artist Beauford Delaney; the house on Dandridge Avenue would become a museum with an artist-in-residence program
Clean and resilient future
$1.75 million for construction of new sidewalks and “missing link” connections, repairs to broken sidewalks, and crosswalk safety enhancements, as well as bicycle infrastructure
$300,000 for new KAT bus shelters; KAT has applied for a state grant that, if awarded, would boost total funding for new bus shelters to $1.2 million
$200,000 to support electric vehicle infrastructure and other sustainability upgrades at City facilities
Thriving businesses and good jobs
$1.2 million to increase road capacity along Millertown Pike between Kinzel Way and Mill Road
$750,000 for the Commercial Façade Improvement Program: Pandemic limitations meant no funding has been available the past two years for this important program, which helps building owners finish rehabilitations of older buildings; over 16 years, 174 building exteriors have gotten a fresh new look, with $8.1 million in City funding exceeded by $18 million in owner investment
More than $1 million to update information technology equipment and increase the City’s cybersecurity protections
$500,000 is committed to match state and federal funds for reconstruction of roadways, including Magnolia Avenue, Papermill Drive, Broadway and Washington Pike
The full budget amendment of $35,345,046 also includes $803,000 in locally-funded appropriations from the City’s General Fund to address mid-year needs.