The problem with holding a work session on Thursday, Aug. 11 hours before the new City Council was sworn into office became apparent at the first regular meeting of the newly elected City Council.
At that meeting on Tuesday, Aug. 16, the one new member, City Councilmember Zack Matheny, objected to spending American Rescue Plan money on routine maintenance projects for city buildings.
The topic for discussion at the Aug. 11 work session was the American Rescue Plan money and how to spend it.
Former District 3 City Councilmember Justin Outling participated in the Aug. 11 work session – noting that he would not be present for any future votes on how to spend the ARP money – but Matheny, who would be sworn into office a couple hours later, did not.
Matheny noted that he had not been present for the discussions on how the ARP money would be spent, but he said that he objected to spending ARP money on routine maintenance projects on city buildings.
Item I.20 on the agenda allocated $6.1 million of ARP funds for HVAC improvements and replacing the roof at the Central Library and roof repairs and maintenance at the Greensboro Cultural Center.
Matheny said, “I don’t support this item for numerous reasons. The American Rescue Plan was supposed to rescue Americans to get back to work and get going again. I just don’t see how three-and-a-half million dollars taking a one-time federal grant to fix a roof that the city owns matches up with the American Rescue Plan.
Matheny added, “If we aren’t being good landlords and we can’t afford to take care of our own buildings then we shouldn’t own them.”
He said that he voted for the $8 million in ARP money for the Vance Chavis Windsor Center combined facility was because it was a transformative project in a neighborhood that needs help.
The motion to spend the $6.1 million on routine maintenance passed by an 8-1 vote with Matheny casting the lone no vote.
Technically, by a previous unanimous vote, it was not ARP money that was allocated. The City Council voted to allocate all $59.4 million in ARP funds for “eligible government services.” So, the ARP funds technically will be spent on the day-to-day operations of the city, which frees up $59.4 million in the general fund for the City Council to allocate for projects that may or may not comply with the ARP funding guidelines.
As explained to the City Council by Assistant City Manager Larry Davis during the Aug. 11 work session, the City Council will no longer have to be concerned about meeting federal standards and timelines for the ARP funds and will be allowed to spend that $59.4 million on anything that falls within the purview of the City Council.
It also means that outside agencies receiving funds will not have to meet the federal reporting standards, but only the much less stringent standards of the City of Greensboro.