The Grand Forks City Council’s Committee of the Whole considered one central question Monday: Where should the remainder of the city’s CARES Act funding go?
Grand Forks Project Coordinator Spencer Halverson on Monday told the committee that he believes the best plan is to invest the leftover dollars into the local economy. For example, the Downtown Development Association and HB Sound and Light proposed $50,000 and $100,000, respectively, be taken from leftover CARES Act monies to help fund their events – the Obelisk Event Series and the Greenway Takeover Festival.
The committee unanimously moved to add both items to the agenda for next week’s meeting of the City Council, despite concerns of whether the council could conduct due diligence in such a short time to make an educated decision.
The city allocated $1.068 million in federal CARES Act funding to Grand Forks Public Health to fight the COVID-19 pandemic from September to December 2020. About $500,000 of it is being reimbursed back to the city, since GFPH is expecting to receive additional state resources soon.
Halverson and his staff recommended approval of the allocation to the Obelisk Series and the Greenway Takeover.
“This has been a hard-hit sector of the economy, and this $150,000 could be considered a one-time funding injection into the renewal of the experiential economy and help reinvigorate that as we come out of the pandemic,” Halverson said.
DDA Executive Director Blue Weber followed Halverson and spoke to the committee to vouch for the idea with a slogan he took from the Grand Forks Region Economic Development Corporation after his father, Council Member Bret Weber, recused himself from discussion on the item.
“Government seeds, private feeds,” Blue Weber said. “We’ve seen that also with the growth of the DDA. The DDA was founded by some seed funding from the city the first three years, and we have been self-sustaining since then.”
He made points about how weekly events, such as the Obelisk Series, are usually very popular among locals and often have good turnouts, as well as good profits.
HB Sound and Light President Jamie Lunski and Festival and Marketing Manager Tricia Halvorson Lunski then spoke to the committee about the funding they requested on behalf of the Greenway Takeover Festival.
Council Member Katie Dachtler argued that the money could be spent in other areas that are in more desperate need of funding after both presentations were finished.
“I think we need to be deliberate about how we spend these dollars,” Dachtler said. “This is a
gift. We are lucky to have this. We came out better than a lot of other places, and we have strong nonprofits in this town and other agencies and organizations that have helped people move forward as they can. We should be deliberate in how we spend it to set ourselves up for future growth economically, but also future support and growth for people within the community.”
In other business Monday:
● The committee unanimously moved to set a hearing, for next week’s City Council meeting, to discuss the demolition of the Ambassador Motel. The residents of the building were given two months to vacate the building after the city condemned the structure.
● The committee also unanimously moved to go forward with a “preliminary engineering agreement” for constructing a 47th Avenue South interchange along Interstate 29, which states if the city decides to cancel or alter the project to reduce the scope, the city then will reimburse the Department of Transportation for any expenses. The total cost of the project is estimated to be $1.3 million, with the city share being $650,000.
The idea to place an interchange along I-29 and 47th Avenue has been discussed for years in Grand Forks, especially as the city’s south end continues to grow. At present, the southernmost I-29 exit into the city is at 32nd Avenue.