CityCouncil

The council discussed which projects were to be completed using American Rescue Plan Act funds. 

City council discusses allocation of American Rescue Plan Act funds

Harrisonburg has been allocated $23.8 million to be paid in two installments under the American Rescue Plan Act. The city received its first installment earlier this year and the second installment is expected to be received in May 2022.

Councilmember Chris Jones made a motion for the Harrisonburg/Rockingham Chamber of Commerce to coordinate with JMU to facilitate community engagement. The council voted to pass this motion unanimously. 

Eric Campbell, the city manager for Harrisonburg, presented a slideshow reviewing the interim final rules regarding fund allocation for the American Rescue Plan Act. The funding must be fully spent by Dec. 31, 2026. 

Campbell said the five primary permissible uses for the funding include supporting public health responses, addressing negative economic impacts due to the pandemic, replacing lost public sector revenue, providing premium pay for essential workers and investing in infrastructure. Campbell said the funds could be extended to other uses if provided in a Qualified Census Tract, areas with 25% or higher poverty rates, and used to help individuals disproportionately affected by the pandemic. 

“These uses include affordable housing, after-school programs, early learning services, COVID benefit navigators and childcare,” Campbell said.” “Services programs may be extended to other populations, but the services must cover those folks that are disproportionately impacted.”

Sixteen city projects were recommended to be considered for funding through the second installment. The council discussed which projects were to be completed using these funds. Mayor Deanna Reed asked the council to prioritize an investment in the Northeast Neighborhood. 

“I’m very proud to live in that neighborhood, but we have overlooked it for decades,” Reed said. “We need to pave streets over there. We’ve had issues with sidewalks and trees. I’m asking for my colleagues to consider making that a priority as well.”

Vice mayor Sal Romero said he’s concerned that a lack of community outreach could lead to error.

“I prefer that we start with getting the community involved,” Romero said. “I hope that we look at what is most needed at this time versus what I want to see happen personally. I want to see all the things we talked about happen, but we also know we are limited because the funds are not endless.” 

Resolution to encourage the General Assembly to mandate timely transfers by the Virginia Department of Corrections 

Chris Brown, the city attorney for Harrisonburg, presented a resolution to urge Virginia’s General Assembly to mandate timely transfers of Virginia Department of Corrections (VDOC) prisoners to VDOC facilities. The resolution passed with a unanimous vote. 

“There are times when the Middle River Regional Jail has an excess [greater than] than the number of prisoners that it should have,” Brown said. “Many of those prisoners ought to be at a state facility. At a number of times, there have been 250 or more prisoners there.”

The resolution asks Delegate Tony Wilt (R) and Senator Mark Obenshain (R) to sponsor and support legislation that requires VDOC to remove their prisoners after 60 days unless a regional jail has contracted with the state to keep VDOC prisoners in their facility.

Council approves Harrisonburg Downtown Renaissance’s special event application 

Matt Little, the recreation and events manager for Harrisonburg Parks and Recreation, presented to the council Harrisonburg Downtown Renaissance’s (HDR) special event application to host Winter Wonderfest on Dec. 11. The application was approved with a unanimous vote.

“The Winter Wonderfest will be a holiday celebration,” Little said. “It will include many activities throughout the day, including care drives, live music and a family movie. It will also include The Arc’s Santa Run in the morning.”

Little gave insight into how the event will work logistically.

“The sip and stroll ABC permit will be in effect [for the event],” Little said. “HDR is requesting multiple road closures for this event; Court Square from 9 a.m  to 9 p.m., and then Main Street from Martin Luther King Jr. Way to Rock St. from 10 AM to 9 PM. We will be posting ‘No Parking’ signs leading up to the event, placing digital message boards and providing barricades.” 

Little said, the estimated cost of the event is $6,000. 

Harrisonburg’s Parks and Recreation will partner with HDR for a modified holiday parade with static floats placed throughout downtown. Little said the modification is a cautionary measure due to the pandemic.

“We started planning this during the rise of the Delta variant,” Little said. “At that point, we kind of made the decision that we need to think creatively and not create that 5,000-person gathering all confined into tight spaces.”

Contact Gia Yoder at yodergg@dukes.jmu.edu. For more coverage of JMU and Harrisonburg news, follow the news desk onTwitter @BreezeNewsJMU.