Lawrence finance committee reviews ARPA funds proposal


The Lawrence Common Council’s finance committee on July 10 reviewed a proposal submitted in early May calling for about $3 million of the city’s American Rescue Plan Act funds to be spent on a variety of city projects.

The proposal was sponsored by Council Members Sherron Freeman, District 3; and Tom Shevlot, District 5, and is supported by Mayor Steve Collier’s administration. It would amend the city’s ARPA spending plan for specific projects. They are:

  • $1 million to match a state grant for street improvements
  • $280,000 to match a grant for trail development and improvements
  • $1.6 million to replace public safety vehicles
  • About $50,000 for public safety education and training, and facility repairs for the fire department’s training tower
  • About $95,000 for police cameras, and for the police department’s new-hire and promotions process
Tyler Douthit

The City of Lawrence received about $11.2 million through the federal ARPA pandemic relief plan. In 2022, the city allocated about $5.5 million for sewer and stormwater infrastructure, street paving and other projects.

During a presentation to the finance committee, City Controller Tyler Douthit said a portion of the allocated 2022 funds had not yet been spent. He did not have an exact figure at that time. Council members asked whether those funds could be used for items on the list of projects submitted for consideration in May, and he said that it would be allowed if the council voted to reappropriate those funds.

Chief of Staff Cori Korn said the projects on the list would benefit the city as a whole. The city does have the funds in its budget now to match the street improvements grant, she said, but if ARPA funds could be used for that match instead, it would free up $1 million for much-needed strip patching on other streets in Lawrence.

Cori Korn

“It’s a way that we can expand the work that we’re doing to make sure that we’re keeping on top of our roads,” she said. Those roads will erode more and more (if we don’t patch them now).”

Korn added that buying public safety vehicles rather than leasing them would free up funds in each department’s budget for the coming year.

There were some questions about purchasing public safety vehicles. The city has leased those vehicles for the past few years, citing cost savings. Council members wondered why purchasing vehicles now is considered a better option. Korn said she would provide the financial information showing why purchasing vehicles now is recommended.

The finance committee met just prior to the Lawrence Common Council meeting — delayed one week because of the Fourth of July holiday. The ARPA spending proposal was on the agenda under “unfinished business,” but was postponed.

Council President Tyrrell Giles referred the proposal to a committee of the whole — which means the entire council — so that all members could hear directly from city officials and ask questions.

Also during the meeting, Councilmember Rick Wells asked about the upcoming 2024 budget planning process. Giles said the council has, in the past, not held many budget hearings leading up to approval of the annual spending plan. However, he said, he believes this year the council will be more active in budget planning.

Finance Committee Chair Shawn Denney said August would be a reasonable time to start the budget process.

The council’s next meeting is scheduled for 6:30 p.m. July 19.