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Published in Economic Development
Ottawa Co. considers 24 projects for $31.5M in federal ARPA funding COURTESY PHOTO

Ottawa Co. considers 24 projects for $31.5M in federal ARPA funding

BY Friday, November 18, 2022 12:18pm

Ottawa County officials are considering a plan to redirect $12.5 million in reserves to fund the full number of projects prioritized for federal stimulus funding.

The county board’s Finance and Administration Committee voted Tuesday to recommend adding $12.5 million in reserves to the county’s remaining $20.3 million in American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funding. Combined, that would free up enough funds to support 24 projects identified for receiving a share of Ottawa County’s ARPA funds.

The full Ottawa County Board of Commissioners is set to consider the ARPA funding recommendation on Tuesday.

“A lot of time and effort and thought went into the projects,” Commissioner Roger Bergman said during the committee meeting. “I’d like to see all of these projects move forward.”

The funding reserves comes from money allocated for broadband and capital improvements.

Similar to Kent County, Ottawa County officials have developed a list of more than 20 priority projects to receive ARPA funding. Among Ottawa County’s largest proposals is $8 million for a housing revolving loan fund.

Ryan Kilpatrick, lead consultant for Housing Next, said the nonprofit advocacy group is searching for a community development financial institution (CDFI) to partner with that would operate and administer the revolving loan fund. Housing Next is considering working with IFF, a Chicago-based CDFI that covers a 10-state region with expertise in affordable housing and child care, Kilpatrick said during the meeting.

“We would recommend investments in rental housing serving residents making 80 percent of the area median income or below,” he said. “What that means is households earning $46,000 to $60,000 a year or less. For homeowners, we would have to increase to 100 percent area median income, which is $64,000-$75,000 or less. The point here is to try to galvanize as much strategic investment as possible.”

A CDFI like IFF could provide low-interest loans for housing projects, Kilpatrick said. The point of the revolving loan fund is to come alongside private investment groups and fill funding gaps.
“This would be the last dollars in gap financing to ensure these projects are getting done,” Kilpatrick said.

Kent County is similarly considering allocating $15 million to $20 million of its ARPA funds to start a housing revolving loan fund, as MiBiz previously reported.

Ottawa County business advocates also have identified workforce initiatives and child care as key community needs that could be supported with ARPA funds.

“There are really three big barriers for businesses right now,” Lakeshore Advantage Corp. President Jennifer Owens told commissioners on Nov. 15. “No. 1 is talent — everyone is talking about access to talent. No. 2 is housing, and No. 3 is child care.”

With regard to child care, Owens said she has “never seen more employers passionate and willing to come to the table to support this initiative. Child care is a quick way to get people back who have fallen out of the workforce, which disproportionately are women, back into the workforce.”

Another large ARPA funding request would allocate $7.5 million to Holland-based outdoor education provider ODC Network. The nonprofit seeks to reduce the gap in child care capacity by 10 percent over the next three years by working with the Ottawa Intermediate School District and local businesses to create 1,000 additional child care spots across the county. The ODC Network proposes locating the new and expanded child care centers across the county using local employer sites that would be accessible to employees and the general public.

Owens, who worked with a team at the county to recommend several of the ARPA projects, was among community leaders addressing and making the case for projects during this week’s finance committee meeting.

Mike Goorhouse, president and CEO of the Community Foundation of the Holland/Zeeland Area, also served on an ARPA review committee to help examine community-submitted proposals.

As was the case in Kent County, far more funding requests came in than the county is able to support, Goorhouse said. That led reviewers to focus on mental health and child care initiatives, which had previously been identified as priorities in community surveys.

Funding requests

Beyond an $8 million housing revolving loan fund and a $7.5 million child care program, here’s a look at the remaining 22 projects recommended, and funding amounts, to receive a share of Ottawa County’s ARPA funding:

  • Recruiting and retaining mental health professionals ($1 million): Funds would support hiring an additional six to 10 psychiatrists who would work with other health care organizations across the county to help people who need medication for their mental health. 
  • Children’s Advocacy Center (CAC) staffing expansion ($211,750): The CAC addresses child abuse cases and has a long backlog of cases from the COVID-19 pandemic. The funding would go toward hiring more staff to increase capacity to catch up to the backlog over the next two years.
  • Reach for Recovery staffing expansion ($337,500): Funding would allow the substance use treatment organization to expand and stabilize its Medication Assisted Treatment program and enhance primary healthcare services for residential clients.
  • Direct care providers certification programs: Four organizations that serve people with intellectual and developmental disabilities would work with Grand Rapids Community College and Community Mental Health of Ottawa County to create a certification path for students to expand the workforce pipeline. Each organization plans to contribute matching funds for the pilot program: Benjamin’s Hope ($55,920), Harbor House ($103,294), Heritage Homes ($103,294), and MOKA Corp. ($87,492).
  • Grand Rapids Community College Michigan Reconnect expansion ($506,493): Gap funding would be provided in the form of scholarships to students who wish to use the state’s Reconnect program.
  • LAUP Business stabilization-workforce development initiative ($799,000): Latin Americans United for Progress (LAUP) plans to launch a workforce development initiative to increase upward mobility and economic stability for all community members who are unemployed or working in lower-wage roles. 
  • Bizstream Academy Expansion ($700,000): The coding bootcamp plans to scale up programming with ARPA funding to address the county’s need for skilled workers in computer science and technology fields.
  • West Michigan Works! Earn & Learn Manufacturing Career Fair ($101,874): The countywide event would allow local employers to share information about career opportunities, entry-level open positions, tuition reimbursement programs and apprenticeship opportunities. 
  • Youth Center youth and parent portal ($20,000): The project would build out the county circuit court’s juvenile service case management system. An online portal would help youth and their guardians look online for their court information that they otherwise would have to access in person at the court.
  • Board of commissioners electronic roll call and e-voting system ($100,000): Funds would be used for technology that allows commissioners to use electronic roll call, voting and access agendas digitally for meetings.
  • James Street DHHS building ($350,000): A recent survey found the facility’s roof needs more significant repairs than originally estimated.
  • Sheriff’s shooting range HVAC ($395,000): The shooting range lacks air conditioning, creating conditions that can be unsafe for training officers. 
  • Idema Explorer Trail ($2 million): The funds would complete the connection of the Idema Explorers Trail to the city of Grand Haven and Grand Haven Township, and other connections in the larger trail plan. 
  • Middle Macatawa trail system ($906,000): Funding would work to connect Lake Michigan to the southeastern area of the county along the Macatawa River and Lake Macatawa corridor.
  • Ottawa Sands phase I improvements ($3.4 million): The project would enhance the biodiversity of the site and provide access to Ottawa Sands to people of all abilities, as well as integrating the Ottawa Sands site into the Grand River Greenway through land and water trail connections and the Idema Explorers Camp. 
  • Crime victim’s assistance fund ($1 million): A self-sustaining crime victim assistance fund would be established to supplement and possibly replace state funding.
  • Local food rescue ($436,675): A full, county-wide food rescue infrastructure would be created. The initiative would include purchasing two new food rescue vehicles, food rescue supplies for storing and transporting food, purchasing the Food Rescue Hero app, and funding three staff positions. 
  • Medicaid cost-based reimbursements ($1.5 million): A reduction in services caused by the COVID-19 emergency response is causing lost revenue to the Ottawa County Health Department, which it is proposing to restore to pre-pandemic levels.
  • Accelerating farmland protection ($1 million): The county’s efforts of protecting farmland are done mainly through purchasing development rights, which protects food production efforts and also has positive environmental effects of protecting groundwater.
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