The Little Rock Board of Directors on Tuesday approved a resolution outlining $11.6 million in spending of federal relief dollars.
With no discussion, the board also passed a resolution urging the Arkansas General Assembly to amend the law that bans public mask requirements. The resolution asks that the law be amended to allow the Arkansas Department of Health alone, or in coordination with the Centers for Disease Control or another federal agency, to determine areas with high transmission of an infectious disease, which would allow local governments to impose mask mandates. Vice Mayor Lance Hines was the lone no vote.
Governor Hutchinson has called for a special session of the legislature to convene tomorrow to reconsider the mask ban. He’s suggested lawmakers create an exception to the law to allow local school boards the option of imposing a mask requirement for students 11 years and younger who are ineligible to receive the COVID-19 vaccine.
The board also called a special Nov. 9 election for voters to consider raising the Central Arkansas Library System’s millage from 3.30 mills to 3.80 mills to pay for operation and maintenance.
Little Rock will ultimately receive a total of around $38 million in federal funds as part of the American Rescue Plan, divided in two parts. The city got the first half in May 2021, but has been waiting on federal guidance on how the money can be spent before proceeding. This first tranche of federal money has to be obligated for projects by the end of 2024 and spent by the end of 2026.
Last week, at the board’s agenda meeting, Mayor Frank Scott Jr. outlined plans to spend $18.8 million, all of the first tranche of federal dollars. But board members were skeptical of several of the proposals, so this week, the administration offered a slimmed-down resolution.
Here’s where those $11.6 million will go:
*$3.4 million on critical IT upgrades to improve cybersecurity and infrastructure
*$2.2 million on fire apparatus
*$1.5 million for community violence intervention
*$700,000 for COVID-19 mitigation and prevention through vaccine incentives and public communication efforts
*Up to $3.2 million for bonuses for city employees who were on the job before March 1: $2,500 for full-time employees and $750 for part-time employees
*$605,000 for indirect costs related to this new spending
Left off from last week:
*$50,000 toward combating public health disparities
*$100,000 for equipment for public meetings during pandemic
*Up to $500,000 to replace Central Arkansas Water galvanized pipes
*Up to $3 million for drainage projects
*$240,000 infrastructure needs around affordable housing sites
*$1.5 million in affordable housing and decrease homelessness
*$250,000 for job training for workers impacted by COVID
*$60,000 for after-school programming
*$821,000 for software and tech upgrades for purchasing and planning and development
*$337,000 for installing broadband at the East Little Rock Community Center and hot spots at various city parks
Scott said the board would continue to discuss American Rescue Plan spending at its next meeting, Aug. 10.
The idea of spending on autonomous Central Arkansas Water drew the ire of several board members last week.
City Manager Bruce Moore told the board that there was urgency in moving forward with the projects outlined in tonight’s resolution. The cybersecurity provider, for instance, would only hold the price on the product the city plans to purchase for the next several weeks, before it was set to rise 20-30%.
City Director Capi Peck successfully moved to amend the resolution to change the hire date city employees would be eligible for the bonus pay from July 1 to March 1. Scott said that would exclude recent graduating classes of the Little Rock fire and police departments, so she then amended her amendment to ensure that the new firefighters and police officers would get the bonus.