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Council to discuss grants, surplus and stimulus money

Charlottesville City Council will discuss millions of dollars in grants, reallocations and stimulus money during its meeting on Monday.

The council will conduct a first reading of the $3.5 million it received to hire 15 firefighters through the Staffing for Adequate Fire and Emergency Response grant program. Typically the grant requires a local match, but that was waived because of the coronavirus pandemic.

The money, which dredged up old disputes between the former fire chief and former city manager when it was announced, will bring a welcome reprieve to a department stretched thin. Firefighters have been sounding the alarm over difficulties staffing ambulances as calls for service continue to rise.

The grant will allow the city to fill fire trucks while simultaneously staffing two ambulances 24 hours a day. The new positions allow for ambulance staffing without pulling from the complement of firefighters.

Six firefighters will serve at the Fontaine Avenue Fire Station and nine will work at the Ridge Street Fire Station.

The money is stretched over three years and covers salary and benefits. The city will be fully responsible for funding the positions starting March 10, 2024, at a price tag of about $1.2 million.

The grant funding is on the council’s consent agenda and will require a second reading.

Surplus In other business, the council will hold a public hearing and vote on spending about $3.9 million in leftover funds from the budget for fiscal 2020, which ended June 30.

City staff have recommended putting all of the money in a contingency reserve of the Capital Improvement Program.

The city has a policy of holding 17% of its revenues in a fund balance and the $3.9 million is money beyond that policy.

The city is operating on a $191.2 million budget for fiscal 2021, which started July 1. The spending plan is largely in line with the fiscal 2020 budget as officials had to cut back on plans because of the pandemic.

The budget includes the first year of the city’s five-year CIP, which sits at about $124.1 million. It includes $25.8 million for the current fiscal year, which was significantly reduced because of the pandemic.

The council would still have to approve any later expenditure of the CIP contingency reserve. If the city needs the money for operating expenses, the council would be able to take that action at a later date.

Stimulus money

The council also will receive recommendations for spending remaining money from the federal coronavirus relief stimulus.

The recommendations were not available Friday.

Last month, city staff said about $1.35 million remained unallocated from the total $8.25 million it received in two rounds of stimulus funding. Any money unused by Dec. 31 must be returned to the federal government.

The biggest chunk of unallocated money, $452,854, was set aside for technology. Other unallocated money is $401,876 for employee support, $187,200 for business support and $117,112 in operational modifications. About $55,000 remains in a contingency reserve after the council approved an assistance fund for former employees.

Road projects

The council will also consider allocating excess funds from a road project to other projects.

The city received about $1.1 million from the Virginia Department of Transportation for pedestrian improvements in the Hillcrest/Birdwood neighborhood.

A revised estimate of the work projects it will be $246,946 cheaper. City staff is recommending allocating $100,000 toward the Washington Park/Madison Avenue bicycle connector trail and $146,946 for pedestrian improvements at the intersection of Monticello Avenue and Second Street.

The council will kick off its meeting at 4 p.m. with reports and recognition. The panel will receive reports from the Social Services Advisory Board, Community Attention Youth Internship Program and on the city’s finances through the end of November. The council will also recognize a sustainability award, Circuit Court certification and police department accreditation.

The council’s regular meeting will start at 6:30 p.m. To register to participate, visit charlottesville.gov/zoom.

Monday’s meeting will be the council’s last for about a month as the panel has indicated it plans to cancel the first meeting in January.

Source: www.dailyprogress.com

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