Workforce development, a new senior center, new irrigation systems and a new family center for southeast Colorado Springs are among the many projects that could get a piece of the $76 million Colorado Springs received in federal coronavirus recovery money.
The bulk of the money, about $53 million, could be spent on construction or equipment upgrades that likely wouldn't see investment otherwise in the near future and aren't eligible for any other funding source, Chief Financial Officer Charae McDaniel told the Colorado Springs City Council. The spending could also include $14 million for economic recovery and $2 million on public health costs, such as the Colorado Springs Fire Department's vaccination program for home-bound residents.
Councilmembers gave the proposal a mostly warm reception Thursday.
"It looks really terrific to me," Council President Tom Strand said.
The city received the money through the American Rescue Plan, a $1.9 trillion coronavirus relief package passed earlier this year that provided $1.9 billion to cities and counties across the state to bolster economic growth and cover pandemic costs. El Paso County is slated to receive $140 million from the package and smaller communities, such as Monument and Woodland Park, will also receive grants.
As part of Colorado Springs economic recovery effort, the city expects to set aside $9.5 million in matching funds for state economic development grants that could help replace jobs lost to the pandemic, Mayor John Suthers said.
To help residents who may have left the service industry, the city expects to give area colleges $2.5 million to help those people pursue new, potentially higher-paying careers. The money could be spent on curriculum or incentivizing residents to enter in-demand professions. The degree programs that could receive support have yet to be determined, McDaniel said.
The city may also spend $1.5 million to help Harrison School District 2, the United Way and Solid Rock Community Development Corporation set up a new family center in southeast Colorado Springs, she said.
"We wanted to specifically look for impact on our citizens that would make things better for them," she said.
Construction and equipment upgrades
The city could spend about $11 million to replace old and inefficient irrigation systems at the city's two golf courses and two cemeteries, McDaniel said. As part of the upgrade the city could transition to using nonpotable water instead of treated drinking water to irrigate the lawns, she said.
The golf courses and cemeteries are meant to be self-supporting through fees, but fees cannot reasonably be raised high enough to cover the cost of new irrigation. The city also legally cannot transfer money from general sales tax collections to cover the costs of departments supported by fees because of a rule specific to the city. The irrigation systems technically qualify for the recovery funding as water infrastructure projects.
"There is no other funding mechanism," she said.
To help draw new businesses into the north Nevada Avenue area, the city expects to spend $8.3 million on new stormwater infrastructure for the area where it's lacking entirely. Currently, any business interested in developing area would have to put in the new drainage structures and that would likely be cost prohibitive for any new venture, McDaniel said. New developers in the area could include the University of Colorado Colorado Springs, which is interested in putting up new research buildings in the area, Suthers said.
Seniors could also see benefits from the city's windfall. The city would like to replace the aging center on Hancock Avenue south of the Patty Jewett Golf Course because it is in serious disrepair. The recovery funds could provide $8 million toward construction and the rest could be funded with sale of the remaining property the city owns in the area, McDaniel said.
The Colorado Springs Police Department could see $5 million or roughly half of the funding needed for a new computer aided dispatch system that would make data entry for officers more efficient, she said. The additional funding for the system could come from the city's dedicated public safety sales tax, Suthers said.
The councilmembers will likely vote on the grant spending in August or September and may propose changes in the coming months.