May 19, 2024 8:12 pm

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Council passes spending requests for American Rescue Plan Act funds

LYNNWOOD, Wash. — The Lynnwood City Council largely passed immediate spending requests for American Rescue Plan Act funds put forth by Lynnwood city staff during their meeting on August 9. Director of Finance Michelle Meyer first presented the immediate requests during the city council meeting on August 2, which was a continued discussion from July 19.

The plan for the funds is divided into short-term and long-term needs. The intent for the short-term implementations is to “stabilize and recover,” while long-term goals are to “strategize and enhance.”

“We’ve chosen to take a strategy somewhat like Snohomish County and some of the other cities in the area are doing,” Meyers said during the August 2 meeting. “We’re really looking at breaking up these funding requests and not trying to decide what to do with all the funding right away, because there are so many pieces of other funding coming down and so many jurisdictions determining how to really make sure to use this funding in a way that meets the broadest need.” 

American Rescue Plan Act funds timeline.

The total for the immediate funding request is $1,438,000 and is broken into three categories: “respond to COVID-19 public health emergency,” “restore public sector capacity to pre-pandemic levels,” and “provide expanded services up to amount of revenue loss.”

This final category is a request of $480,000 to “purchase and implement an officer body camera program.” The request allocates roughly $350,000 for the hardware and was passed unanimously by the council. The camera systems being considered all utilize off-site data storage, so there would be no need to purchase additional IT infrastructure. According to Meyers, this usage of funds is very recent and is in response to an unfunded mandate from Washington State in May that includes “enacting the uniform electronic recordation of custodial interrogations act,” or simply put: police body cameras.

Also included in the $480,000 is a full-time clerk position to manage public records and requests. This was voted on separately from the body camera program and passed 6-1 with Councilmember Ruth Ross voting no.

“The American Rescue Plan is not for the city to spend on the city. The American Rescue Plan is for the city to spend on the community,” Ross said during the August 9 meeting. “None of this is what that money is for. This isn’t revenue. This is emergency funds to help the community.”

This sentiment prompted Ross to vote no on the bulk of the immediate funding request: $858,000 for 8.2 full-time equivalent (FTE) positions with the city. The positions were voted on individually and passed 6-1 with Ross being the no vote on each. 

There is a detailed breakdown in the presentation, but 5.2 of these positions are for several part-time jobs that equal 5.2 full-time hours with the Recreation portion of the Parks, Recreation & Cultural Arts department. According to Meyers, many city employees were able to transition to work-from-home during the pandemic, but recreation largely shut down operations. The other three positions that passed are for a police evidence officer, a court legal specialist and a custodian respectively.

The first category—respond to COVID-19 public health emergency—is the smallest of the three requests at $100,000 and was unanimously voted to be postponed to a future meeting. This request would cover operational and capital needs for the council chambers, but multiple council members cited concerns and wanted additional information from the contractor and the city’s IT department.

Meyers stated this funding would be used to improve audio and visual capabilities to better facilitate hybrid in-person/remote meetings for the council. It would purchase new equipment such as monitors for each council workstations as well as replacing older wiring, screens and other equipment. As was mentioned in the previous Lynnwood ARPA report, the council meeting did have technical issues.

With these motions passed, there is still roughly $9.5 million in ARPA funds that hasn’t been allocated that the city council and staff still needs to discuss. 

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