For a third time this year, City Council met to talk about how it is going to spend the remainder of Harrisonburg’s nearly $24 million federal American Rescue Plan Act money.

Council will hold another ARPA meeting Dec. 13.

The city has already spent $2 million on employee retention to combat workforce shortages and $700,000 to purchase a property to use as a homeless shelter.

Money has also been obligated but not spent on other projects, including a new fire station.

The remaining ARPA money will be used to fund five priority areas: mental health, child care, affordable housing, neighborhood improvements and community spaces.

Council kicked off Tuesday’s work session by discussing parks and recreation projects.

While both council members Sal Romero and Chris Jones agreed that not all the community space projects can be completed with ARPA funds, they disagreed on which should get the money.

Construction and renovation at the Smithland Athletic Complex is listed as a potential project.

The east side of the complex needs lights and a bathroom. The west side would be a bit more expensive. An athletic pad, restrooms and a parking lot would cost between $11 million and $14 million.

Romero said he wanted to fund the east side work, at least the bathrooms.

Jones said building just the bathroom on the east side could cause future construction problems. Jones said he would like to see legacy projects, such as a splash pad at Ralph Sampson Park, completed.

Council member Laura Dent said putting this much money toward parks seemed “out of proportion.” She wanted to see more money put into the potential housing development program, which had roughly $5 million set aside in the proposed project report and would award loans and grants to potential housing development projects.

Jones disagreed, saying a majority of residents use outdoor spaces.

The city’s newly anticipated homeless services shelter was also brought into conversation.

Jones said he supports using ARPA money to fund operations at the city’s homeless shelter for the first year to kick-start the project.

Outgoing council member Richard Baugh said that could be a slippery slope, and City Manager Ande Banks agreed.

“We’re starting to creep into something that’s making me a little uncomfortable,” Banks said, “which is your forestalling of operating cost by using one-time money.”

Council members agreed that putting $400,000 toward a nonprofit assistance program would be best to cover the mental health priority area.

Council members ran out of time and agreed to schedule another ARPA discussion.

During council’s regular meeting Tuesday, members denied a request for a short-term rental at a duplex property near downtown.

Robert and Havilah Alford requested a special-use permit for 375 Broad St.

Under the proposal, the applicant’s son would live in the upstairs and operate a short-term rental in the downstairs unit.

Planning Commission recommended denying the permit, saying both units should be used as permanent housing.

Dent said she draws the line at taking a permanent living unit off the market.

One of council’s goals is affordable housing, and short-term rentals would drive up the housing market, Dent said.

Jones said that while he understands Planning Commission’s recommendation for denial, he can’t turn down an entrepreneurial opportunity for a father and son.

Reed, Dent and Baugh voted to deny the request. Jones and Romero voted to approve.

Toward the end of the meeting, Banks announced the appointment of Amy Snider as acting deputy city manager until full recruitment can go forward.

Snider is assistant to the city manager. Banks vacated the deputy city manager role in October when he was appointed to city manager.

Snider oversees the city’s homeless services center project, the city’s developing Language Access Plan, the annual Civic and Community Organizations grant program, and the city’s American Rescue Plan Act, according to a Wednesday city press release.

Contact Laura Boaggio at 574-6278 or lboaggio@dnronline.com

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