BELDING — More funds could be coming to this city for several park projects.
Belding City Manager Jon Stoppels told the City Council on Oct. 4 about possible funding for the park projects from the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA).
During Tuesday’s meeting of the City Council, Larry Hummel, a senior project manager at Grand Rapids-based civil engineering and architecture firm Fleis & VandenBrink (F&V), answered questions about the different funding options available.
Mayor Bruce Meyers motioned for Stoppels to work with F&V to move forward on the application process. Councilman Jorel Davis seconded, and the motion passed 4-1. Councilman Ron Gunderson was the only “no” vote.
Michigan has allocated $65 million in ARPA funds for projects to improve, renovate, or construct public recreation facilities and equipment. The Michigan Spark Grants will administer this funding by the Michigan Department of Natural Resources.
According to Hummel, those funds will be made available to chosen state municipalities in three rounds; round one of $15 million by the end of 2022, $25 million in the spring of 2023, and $25 million in the summer of 2023.
Stoppels said the grant funding discussed does not require a match, though funding matches are encouraged in documents related to grant applications.
“We have (funds) due to Bonita’s good idea a year or two ago was to add to what we were planning on spending on (the Central Riverside) pavilion,” he said.
Stoppels said there’s about $75,000 set aside to renovate that pavilion, which could be used for matching in this case.
“Right now, we’re looking at renovating the pavilion, expanding it,” he said.
In an email sent from Stoppels to Hummel, the city manager said he envisioned the following for improvements to the pavilion:
• A building that is 1 1/2 to 2 times larger than the existing structure
• Includes a covered picnic area, storage, a kitchen and bathrooms
• Picnic portion to have to pull down walls for security pups
• All exterior materials to be damaged-, graffiti- and vandal-proof
• Metal roof
• All stainless bathroom fixtures
• Floors to be polished concrete and sealed (like the floor in Home Depot and Lowe’s)
• Interior walls to be vandal-proof
• All doors to be high security
• Kitchen to have access window for concessions
• Vandal-proof 360-degree lighting
• Vandal-proof security cameras with police station monitoring and instant recording
• Bathrooms to be heated for year-round use
• An outdoor fireplace
• Solar panels to offset electrical costs
Council members got to see some pictures of examples of how the improved structure could look if they chose to move forward with the project.
Stoppels emphasized the need for vandal-proof measures because of the structure’s location.
“That building right now, because of its location, is very susceptible to vandalism,” Stoppels said. “As soon as the police car pulls into the parking lot, you could see where five or six kids would all do the scatter routine. They all head in different directions. We can’t catch anyone. They meet up at somebody’s house half an hour later to laugh about the things they got away with.”
Stoppels also pointed to some equipment in city parks that are “more than 25 years old.” He distributed some pictures of said equipment to council members as well.
“The first one shows a view of a playground from the street, and it looks nice,” he said. “But when you get into the details of it, you’ll notice that some of the plastic coatings that were supposed to cover the metal for decades do erode, and it does fall off. And it leaves rusty pinch points for kids’ fingers.”
He said there’s also some warped plastic and some corrosion starting to cause structural problems.
The application window for the first round of funding will open on Oct. 24 and will close on Dec. 19. Decisions on grant awards will be made on Jan. 3, 2023.
“All of the projects, no matter which stage they’re in, are given a timeline of having to be completed in late 2026,” Hummel said.
Hummel said scoring criteria are associated with the application process, including public benefit and anticipated outcomes. According to the state of Michigan’s website, other scoring criteria are financial and social considerations, access to the project site, new opportunities for people of all abilities, clarity of scope and ability to execute, and renovation and long-term maintenance.
Currently, there’s some question about how the funding will be distributed and whether it’s on a first come-first serve basis. Gunderson showed some concern about that possibility. He also suggested moving the pavilion and playground equipment moving everything closer to Depot Street “and get it away from the woods, the river…so that when the police do pull up, it’s going to be closer.”
“It would be able to be utilized better by the Veterans wall,” he said. “We might have to jockey some field around in that, but to me, it would make sense.”
During council comments, Gunderson pointed to the fact that there’s the possibility three new council members will be sitting at the table in the coming months after November’s election.
“The new board members need to be a part of this,” he said.
Gunderson said he hopes whoever sits on the council in the future does their homework about what’s been done in the city and how that worked out as they make decisions to direct the city’s efforts.