LAPEER — Seventy-two City of Lapeer employees were approved Monday evening to receive a one-time “appreciation bonus” for working through the COVID-19 pandemic, money to be paid via a portion of the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) of 2021 the City received from the federal government. ARPA provided $350 billion in additional funding to state and local governments.
The City of Lapeer in total received $896,942 in ARPA funds. It received the first half in early 2021, and is expected to receive the balance of $448,471 by July. Full-time employees who worked without disruption from April 2020 to Feb. 28, 2022 will receive a $100 per employee/ per month bonus check, while permanent part-time employees will be paid $50 per employee/per month. The total appreciation bonus allocation was $156,000.
The City Commission is not included in the bonus payment.
“City employees will be very happy,” said City Manager Dale Kerbyson. “Even when the State forced us to close, we found ways to continue to serve. We were still here. Certainly there was a risk to them, but they rose to the occasion.”
The decision to approve the bonus followed a special workshop session prior to the regular City Commission meeting Monday evening, where officials discussed and introduced ideas to spend ARPA funds, as well as $338,000 in marijuana excise tax revenue returned to both the City of Lapeer and the County of Lapeer earlier this year. The City and County will receive annual payments from the State of Michigan because Lapeer has six marijuana dispensaries in the community. The amount comes from nearly $175 million collected from a 10% excise tax tacked on to all recreational marijuana sales in fiscal year 2021 — Oct. 1, 2020 to Sept. 30, 2021 — as well as application and licensing fees.
The City Commission reached consensus to pay the appreciation bonus in the workshop session, and then passed a motion to authorize the payment during the regular meeting.
The $338,000 the City of Lapeer received in exercise tax revenue was about $100,000 more than officials recently put into the City’s newest general operations budget for 2022-2023.
The remainder of the ARPA and marijuana excise tax funds are currently included in the general operating budget. The workshop discussion centered on whether the special revenue sources should be earmarked for particular uses.
The City Commission agreed the marijuana excise tax revenue ought to be set aside in a separate fund, and welcome citizen input on what spending priorities people think the money should be spent on.
Commissioner Marlana Swindell said the marijuana debate and presence in Lapeer caused “a lot of trauma to many people. This money should go toward something they can touch and use… There are a lot of little projects that don’t cost a lot of money. I don’t want this money to exclude anyone,” she commented.
City officials agreed to coordinate an online survey open to city and non-city residents alike, in addition to a future in-person workshop session to garner additional feedback.
Commissioners Monday suggested numerous ideas how to spend the ARPA and marijuana money.
Commissioner Jeff Pattison suggested the marijuana money be aside in a fund until there’s sufficient citizen input on what they want to do with the money, while he also suggested to “use a little bit” of the money to develop an informational package to help people expunge conviction records of marijuana-related possession offenses.
Commissioner Joshua Atwood suggested a slice of the marijuana revenue “pie” should go toward additional eco-tourism activities in the City, while another percentage can go toward local roads among other priorities identified by city staff and the public.
Commissioner Tony Stroh said there’s been a lot of interest expressed for pickle ball courts in the community, for additional lighting and improvements to parks and the tennis courts. He added the City spent nearly $120,000 on an artificial skating rink that still doesn’t have a home after it was dismantled earlier this spring from where it was located on a city-owned parking lot along Farmers Creek between Court and Saginaw streets.
He suggested the City may have an opportunity to partner with the LEADER Fund or big and small businesses in the state, including the Illitch family that owns the Detroit Red Wings, to find the resources to provide ice skate rentals, enhanced lighting and other amenities to make the rink a destination to the downtown area. “If we’re going to do something, we have to do it,” he commented.
Atwood said there might be an opportunity to get local businesses to sponsor space on the small boards that ring the skating rink.
Bicycle and kayak rentals were other suggestions to finance with marijuana tax revenue.
“It has to be for something everyone sees, and is good for the entire community,” added Swindell. “If we pave a couple streets it might be great for the people who live on the streets, but for others who don’t drive down them who cares?… We can turn it into legacy money.”
Grant money, said officials — should it be approved — could supplement marijuana excise tax revenue to complete projects and satisfy funding priorities identified by the public.
In other business:
• The Commission Monday evening granted a special event request from the Stand Up Michigan Lapeer County Chapter to hold an event titled Stand Up Lapeer from 8 a.m. to 10 p.m. Sunday, Saturday, Sept. 18 at Rowden Park. The group’s mission is to advocate for citizen rights and constitutional freedoms.
The organizer anticipates the event will be attended by approximately 500 people.
• The Commission also approved a special event request to hold an event called “Out of Darkness Walk” on Saturday, Sept. 24 starting at 8 a.m. at Rowden Park.
The walk, usually attended by about 100 people, is designed to raise awareness about suicide prevention.
• The Commission approved the 2022-2023 solid waste license fees for the companies that service Lapeer households and businesses.
Oregon Township-based Rick Rhein Disposal provides commercial and residential pickup service. The company will continue to charge $19 per month per household through September 30, and will increase the monthly rate to $20 on Oct. 1, 2022.
Tri County Refuse of Flint (formerly Republic Services) offers various sizes of roll-off and frontload dumpsters to commercial customers, while Flint-based GFL Environmental services Hunters Creek Mobile Home Community and commercial customers at varying rates.
Deerfield Disposal has sold their commercial accounts and dumpsters, and now only operates a transfer station in North Branch.
• Mayor Debbie Marquardt was supported in her appointment of Bruce Johnson, Keith Brace and Ken Pike to the Construction Board of Review for a two-year term to conclude on July 1, 2024, while the Commission appointed Mike Robinet to a three-year term on the Lapeer Building Authority through June 1, 2025.
Vacancies remain on the City’s Downtown Development Authority, the Economic Development Commission/Tax Increment Finance Authority/Brownfield Board, Lapeer Building Authority, Income Tax Board of Review, the Prison Liaison Committee and the Zoning Board of Appeals (two alternate positions available). If interested, or want to know more about the open seats, contact Lapeer City Clerk Romona Sanchez at 810-664-5231.
• The next City Commission meeting will be held Tuesday, July 5 at 6:30 p.m. in the second-floor chambers at Lapeer City Hall.