Forest Park commissioners appear willing to give the Forest Park Chamber of Commerce at least $40,000 in federal stimulus funds for marketing assistance and another $75,000 for small business grants — but first they want a better idea of exactly how it would spend those dollars.
The village received a little over $1.86 million in American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) stimulus funds. Some of that money has already been spent, but the bulk of it hasn’t firmly been committed. Village Administrator Moses Amidei emphasized to the Review that all the figures are preliminary until the council approves the expenditures.
On Jan. 23, the village council held a special meeting before its regular meeting to get an update on how the village spent the money so far and how it can be used in the future. Since the council last discussed the matter during the Oct. 24 special meeting, the village secured capital funding that can be used to cover some fire station, public works and Mohr Community Center building repairs, and Amidei said the village can use its own funding to pay for some other infrastructure improvements.
He added that the village already made some progress on spending ARPA funds. One of the Mohr Community Center air-conditioning units has been replaced, and fire station roof repairs have been completed. While the village originally planned to use ARPA to replace the remaining two community center air-conditioning units, the village has since obtained funding through the Rebuild Illinois state capital bill to take care of that. Forest Park currently estimates that the replacement will cost a total of $70,000, and the village still plans to replace one unit a year.
There are several other expenses that Amidei originally proposed funding with ARPA money that he has since found other sources for. The village will use $21,000 from the village water fund to cover the costs of inspecting and cleaning the reservoir under Mohr Community Center playground, and around $300,000 in village VIP funds to cover Madison Street streetscape improvements. Forest Park will also use the Rebuild Illinois funds to pay for fire station window replacement, which is expected to cost around $90,000, as well as to cover estimated $200,000 it would cost to replace the public works building roof and $45,000 to do public works building tuckpointing.
Amidei told the Review that the state already approved the capital funding — it’s simply a matter of that funding reaching Forest Park.
Shifting the funding sources means that the village can spend ARPA funds for other purposes. While Amidei previously proposed giving the chamber $25,000 for marketing assistance and $20,000 toward small business grants the chamber can distribute, the new plan increases those numbers to $120,000 and $75,000, respectively. The chamber previously requested $40,000 marketing, and the council was receptive to giving that.
One new area is mental health assistance, for which Amidei tentatively allocated $30,000. Commissioner Maria Maxham, who has been working to improve mental health services in Forest Park, suggested that the funds can be used to do more outreach and help connect residents to service providers.
“Over the past couple of months, I’ve been talking with [Public Health and Safety] Director [Steve] Glinke and [Mohr Community Center] Director [Karen] Dylewski about having better resources for our underserved residents,” she said. “We started talking about the need in general, to have more sources available. We’re compiling a list of places [to go] if you’re in crisis, you need therapy, you need help.”