Mayor Jared Nicholson’s administration has been working around the clock to conduct a community-wide survey of Lynn residents and business owners for their thoughts about what the City should do with funding received from the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA). Surveys have been distributed by means of grassroots efforts including connecting with community stakeholders, canvassing neighborhoods and setting up in-person and virtual community meetings in each Ward. As of March 28, 2022, the City has gathered over 1,000 survey entries, with the collection closing this week on March 31st.
(Ward 4 Community Meeting at St. Joseph’s Parish Hall.)
Of the 1,000 surveys collected, most responses have come from Lynn residents. The top five areas the surveys see for ARPA investment include Roadway & Sidewalk Improvements, Public Health Measures, Construction Improvement & Updates to School Buildings, Individual Assistance, Upgrades to Existing Parks. Many the surveys are from residents who are somewhere between the ages of 40 and 65, however the mayor’s office has decided to tie this survey into Government Day as students in Lynn High Schools will work in groups on a mock ARPA project then submit their own thoughts on the survey.
ARPA was signed into law in March of 2021 as part of the Federal Government’s response to the Covid-19 pandemic. ARPA funding was intended to support State, Local, and Tribal governments in responding to the pandemic, mitigating the impacts of Covid-19, and supporting programs meant to contain the outbreak.
The City of Lynn is eligible for $75,134,915 in direct ARPA funding, which will complete the additional funding the City has received in state ARPA funds. To date, the city has dedicated $13.5 million to improving the air quality in our municipal-owned buildings by replacing and upgrading the HVAC systems throughout public buildings in Lynn. $500,000 has been directed to purchase rapid COVID antigen test kits and $3 million is being allocated to the Economic Development and Industrial Corporation of Lynn (EDIC) for small business relief grants. The remaining $58 million will be dedicated toward initiatives and priorities which will be developed by the public following robust community engagement. In order to receive input from as many residents and businesses as possible, $800,000 is being allocated for city-wide translators.
This process of using ARPA funding will happen in multiple stages. The basic survey in which community members are asked about their broad needs and suggestions for ARPA funding will end on March 31, 2022. From there the results will be analyzed to determine which areas are of most concern for residents. A presentation of these survey results to the City Council will take place in April of 2022.
The second phase of this outreach process will involve launching requests for ARPA projects. This phase will allow community members to request ARPA funding for specific and detailed projects. In May of 2022, the second round of community surveys will be deployed to gather feedback on the projects that have been submitted. A presentation of the proposed projects will go before the Lynn City Council in July of 2022. Projects are expected to begin late summer/early fall depending on any state and federal purchasing requirements.
Due to the large amount of ARPA funds available to the City of Lynn, the entirety of the available funding will not be allocated in this ongoing process alone. The City of Lynn has until December 31st of 2024 to assign these funds to projects, and they have until December 31st of 2026 to spend their ARPA funds.
GENERAL TIMELINE FOR COMMUNITY OUTREACH
On Monday March 21, 2022, the first ARPA community Ward meeting was held at St. Joseph’s Parish Hall in Ward 4 to begin a dialogue about potential opportunities and eligible uses for ARPA funding. The City’s consultant for ARPA outreach, Nichol Figueiredo, CEO, Capital Strategic Solutions; Mayor Jared Nicholson, Jean Fana, Community Outreach Director from the Mayor’s Office, and Ward 4 City Councilor Richard Colucci were all present.
Ward 4 residents spoke out for better restroom facilities in public parks, and more effective trash and litter clean up in both High Rock Park and Kings Beach. The community in Ward 4 saw a need for resilient and safe playgrounds in public areas to provide the children of Lynn with safe areas to explore in their natural environment, a concern which has only deepened as the pandemic limited outdoor activities for children. Attendees of the Ward 4 meeting, after the public discussion with city leaders, submitted these thoughts in their surveys.
The City also engaged community stakeholders on March 23, 2022 in Wards 1 & 2 during a scheduled meeting at Grace United Methodist Church, and in Ward 7 on March 24, 2022 in the Lynn Classical Auditorium. In addition to the Mayor and his staff, Councilor Wayne Lozzi, Councilor Richard Starbard, Councilor John Walsh, and Councilor-At-Large Brian Field were in attendance to represent their respective Wards.
The opportunity to engage with the public during scheduled Ward meetings and various in-person and virtual meetings with different community organizations and non-profits has been a great act of collaboration. Throughout the community, many residents have voiced a need for improvement to green-spaces and public parks in Lynn, and as one person put it, “reinvesting in the City’s gems”. Some have proposed using some of this funding for a public health campaign, and others see value in support for small businesses and minority business owners. The public input that is getting collected continues to be thoughtful and diverse.
“Knowing that this is a once in a generation opportunity, I know my colleagues and I feel very strong about how and where the money gets spent. We appreciate the open communication Mayor Nicholson has had with the Council, and we look forward to working with him, his staff and the entire community deciding on what areas will have the greatest impact when investing the ARPA funds”, said Councilor-At-Large, Brian Field. “To help us gain input from as many community members as possible, please share this survey with your Lynn friends, family members, and neighbors. Your input is a crucial component to our evaluation process.”
(From left to right: Councilor-At-Large Brian Field, Councilor Richard Starbard, Mayor Nicholson, and Councilor Wayne Lozzi.)
“While many cities and towns used ARPA funds only for large projects, I think we need to act in accordance with our belief that ARPA also needs to be used to bolster economic recovery widely. What is my vision for these funds? I want to see the City use this money to create more opportunities for disabled individuals – a job training program for people with disabilities and grants for small businesses” said Traci Daustou, owner of Beauty and Ink Studio.
George V. Marcos, owner of Brother’s Deli, also shared his areas of interest for ARPA spending. “I love the diversity of the people in this community that make up our City of Lynn. I would happily support this money being invested into our public school system, our seniors, and also to support homelessness, and those suffering from mental health disorders. If we can help even one percent of these folks, we are doing great work.”
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