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Little Rock city director pulls alternative spending plan for second tranche of federal aid

Funding resolution distracting from millage push, Ward 6 director tells Board by Joseph Flaherty | June 22, 2022 at 4:25 a.m.
FILE — Little Rock City Hall is shown in this 2019 file photo.

A member of the Little Rock Board of Directors withdrew her alternative proposal on Tuesday for how to divvy up most of the money in the second tranche of federal funding to the city from the American Rescue Plan Act.

City Director Doris Wright, who represents Ward 6, asked that the resolution be withdrawn at the start of the board meeting before a vote could be taken on whether to add it to the agenda.

Adding the item would have required a supermajority vote by board members.

Wright indicated she wanted to bring back the resolution at a later date.

"I feel that we need to focus on our upcoming millage election on Aug. 9 and I believe it's a distraction so ... as the author I am withdrawing it at this time," Wright said during the meeting.

The city's second and final tranche of nearly $19 million was recently received from the federal government. Little Rock received the first half of its total allocation of more than $37 million in May 2021 as part of the Biden administration's covid-19 economic recovery package.

Signed in March 2021, the American Rescue Plan Act included $350 billion in direct aid to non-federal governmental entities, including Arkansas' capital city.

Wright's resolution, which was discussed at a board meeting last week, departed in several ways from the initial spending plan compiled by city staff and brought forward by Emily Jordan Cox, the city's intergovernmental relations manager, at a May 31 meeting.

Among the changes, Wright's version would add $1 million in funding for a senior center (for a total of $3 million), $1 million for parks and community centers (for a total of $3 million) and $1 million for downtown capital needs as well as a master plan (for a total of $1.5 million).

The additional money for parks and community centers would be earmarked for the baseball fields at the West Central Community Center, according to Wright's resolution. The complex is located in her ward.

Wright's proposal left out spending on items such as affordable housing, ensuring access to healthy food and community-violence intervention programs that were outlined in the original proposal from city staff.

A $2.35 million allocation for the Public Works Department was left unchanged under Wright's version.

So was a $1 million allocation for the Little Rock Police Department's proposed real-time crime center, which recently got the approval of the city board and is expected to be housed in the department's new West Markham Street headquarters once the building opens.

Both plans would allocate $12.35 million from the second tranche of federal aid, leaving roughly $6.5 million to be allocated at another time.

During the Aug. 9 capital-improvement millage referendum Wright referenced at Tuesday's meeting, voters will be asked to approve an extension on three mills.

If the extended property-tax levy is approved, the city plans to issue up to $161.8 million in bonds and spend the money on items such as street and drainage improvements, a new district court building and expansion of the Port of Little Rock's industrial park.

Print Headline: Wright withdraws alternative proposal


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