Officials said the pier project at Blossom Heath Park in St. Clair Shores was one of many projects paid for with American Rescue Plan Act funds.

Officials said the pier project at Blossom Heath Park in St. Clair Shores was one of many projects paid for with American Rescue Plan Act funds.

File photo by Patricia O’Blenes

ARPA funds fuel projects in St. Clair Shores

By: Alyssa Ochss | St. Clair Shores Sentinel | Published February 8, 2023


ST. CLAIR SHORES — St Clair Shores has used about $5 million from the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021 according to City Manager Dustin Lent.

The American Rescue Plan Act of 2021, or ARPA, was enacted by the federal government in response to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. Its main goal, according to the federal government, was to offer assistance to individuals, families and communities suffering from the financial struggles of the pandemic.

“The American Rescue Plan will change the course of the pandemic and deliver immediate relief for American workers,” an official document from the White House read.

In St Clair Shores, the city received a little over $21 million total in ARPA funding. Projects within the $5 million already used include updates to the pier at Blossom Heath Park, new playground equipment for Kaufman and Welsh parks, new walking paths at Frederick Park, and many others.

“We’re working on them now, but we’ve already expended some funds, but the large portion of the ARPA money will be going to our police and fire departments,” St. Clair Shores Mayor Kip Walby said.

The Blossom Heath Park pier project was given around $2.4 million, Lent said. This was to offset the Tax Increment Financing Authority bond used for the project.

Lent also said they used the money to replace some lead service lines and to keep water rates for residents steady.

“We’ve also used it to replace some lead service lines to the tune of about $850,000,” Lent said. “Council also during COVID used $1.2 million to do a water rate stabilization. We wanted to make sure our residents didn’t see a water rate increase so the council threw in $1.2 million of ARPA funds to keep the water rates low the last fiscal year so the residents didn’t see an increase.”

The Senior Center also received updates and additions with a new pickleball court and small repairs to an Americans with Disabilities Act accessible door, Lent said.

He said that leaves about $16 million left to use for the fire and police departments.

“Of that $16 million, we have went out for quotes to refurbish and or redesign our fire stations and our police department,” Lent said.

Walby said they could have used the money for just about anything but decided to dedicate it to the police and fire departments.

“The majority of it is categorized under what the federal government would call under lost revenue,” Walby said. “So the majority of it there can be spent on just about anything in the city, but we’ve dedicated it to the police and fire department, the buildings.”

There are two options for both buildings: complete building teardowns or upgrades.

“Between those projectsm we’re looking north about $17 (million) to $18 million minimally just to do the bare minimums to upgrade our police department and our fire department,” Lent said.

However, a complete teardown of each station could cost north of $15 million each.

“We don’t have that much remaining,” Lent said. “So then there will have to be some nice budget conversations and budget discussions on how council wants to allocate the rest of the funding to refurbish our police and fire buildings.”

Lent said an architectural firm hired to provide preliminary drawings for the police department estimated the cost north of $15 million, with a renovation of the building estimated at around $9 million to stay within budget.

“But it’s going to be up to council to decide if they want to spend $9 million to fix up the building or they want to spend $15 million and take care of it for the next 50 to 60 years with a new building,” Lent said.

Lent said he expects those conversations will take place at City Council meetings in the next three months or so. However, it all depends on when the paperwork comes in.

“My guess, within the next three months, you’ll start hearing all of that at all of the meetings,” Lent said. “But that’s all preliminary right now, we don’t have any of that information.”

As for the other projects, the pier at Blossom Heath Park is close to being done, Lent said, but there were a couple of factors that slowed things down.

“The pier is very close, as I would probably say if I put a percentage on it 90%-95% complete. Just obviously weather has slowed everything down, production delays have slowed things,” Lent said.

Some of the production delays include materials for railings and the shade structure.

“But for the most part, the pier is pretty much done and we’re just waiting for a ribbon-cutting that will be taking place in early spring,” Lent said.