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East Lansing City Council Meeting Recap 3/16/21

** Thanks for reading!
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Thanks for checking out the East Lansing City Council Recap. This publication is sent out after each regular, discussion-only and special City Council meeting. Plan for future meetings by viewing the 2021 meeting schedule here: https://cityofeastlansing.com/997/2021-Meeting-Dates (https://cityofeastlansing.com/997/2020-Meeting-Dates) .

Readers are encouraged to contact the East Lansing City Manager's Office with questions: (517) 319-6920


** Highlights from the March 16 Virtual Meeting
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The East Lansing City Council met yesterday via Zoom for its Tuesday, March 16 discussion-only meeting. The meeting was held electronically due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

During communications from Councilmembers, several Councilmembers encouraged community members to continue being safe during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. "Continue to stay the course and try to protect this progress," said Councilmember Ron Bacon. "We are starting to see things on the horizon."

During his report, Mayor Aaron Stephens announced that Michigan State University has confirmed the presence of the B.1.1.7. coronavirus variant in the East Lansing campus community. "The message that I really want to send on this, and it's something that myself and Ingham County Health Officer Linda Vail have talked about frequently, is that the same things that prevent the spread for the original variant of COVID-19 are the same things that will prevent the spread of the new variants," said Mayor Stephens. "That means wearing a mask, physically distancing and not gathering with large amounts of people. All of those things are going to help mitigate the spread."

During the city manager's report, East Lansing City Manager George Lahanas explained that the City is starting to hear details about the American Rescue Plan Act. He explained that the act includes support to local governments and, while the information is still preliminary, the City could receive up to $12.5 million in assistance to make up for lost revenue due to the COVID-19 pandemic. At this time, details on how those funds could be used are unknown.

Lahanas noted that he continues to work with East Lansing Finance Director Jill Feldpausch to discuss what this means for the City and the Fiscal Year 2022 Budget. He explained that the City plans to stay the course with the FY 2022 Budget preparation and he will report to Council as he learns new information about the act.


** Artspace Preliminary Feasibility Study
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During last night's meeting, Council discussed conducting an Artspace Preliminary Feasibility Study in the City of East Lansing.

East Lansing Community and Economic Development Administrator Adam Cummins explained that the East Lansing Downtown Development Authority (DDA) was recently given a presentation from Artspace, a non-profit real estate developer for the arts with a mission to create, foster and preserve long-term affordable space for artists, art organizations and the entire creative sector.

One of the services that Artspace provides is a Preliminary Feasibility Study, which quantifies the demand for art and creative spaces, identifies the types of spaces and amenities artists want and need and proposes potential sites and designs for the development. The study also involves working with residents to get a sense of who the leaders would be to help bring the project forward and if a project would be feasible in that community.

Following Artspace's presentation during the DDA meeting, the DDA voted unanimously to recommend that Council approve funding of $30,000 for an Artspace Preliminary Feasibility Study.

During Council's discussion, Mayor Stephens and Mayor Pro Tem Jessy Gregg expressed interest in conducting the Artspace Preliminary Feasibility Study. "I think in our effort to be more inclusive and to diversify housing and provide more affordable opportunities for folks, I think we have to be intentional, and I think this is an example of being intentional," said Mayor Stephens. "It is seeking out these opportunities for our community in a way that we are actively attempting to diversify housing and provide affordable housing within our community."

Following discussion, Council requested that this item be placed on a future Council meeting agenda. View the agenda item report for the Artspace Feasibility Study discussion. (https://cityofeastlansing.civicweb.net/document/49633/Artspace%20Feasibility%20Study%20Discussion.pdf?handle=E72F9590BA6E4220A652C79FF570DEEE)


**
Fiscal Year 2022 Community Development Block Grant Programs
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Council also discussed the Fiscal Year 2022 Community Development Block Grant Coronavirus (CDBG-CV) program during last night's meeting.

Community Development and Engagement Manager Amy Schlusler-Schmitt explained that, with the presence of coronavirus throughout the country, the City is eligible to receive an additional $228,126 of CDBG-CV grant funds that can be used to prevent, prepare for and respond to the coronavirus pandemic. The anticipated allocation date for these funds is early May 2021.

Schlusler-Schmitt noted that, when the City received its first round of CDBG-CV grant funds in 2020, the City decided to prioritize the funding for two main programs: Emergency Rent and Mortgage Relief and Small Business Relief. She then noted that the staff recommendation for the second round of CDBG-CV funds would be to disburse them to these two existing programs. She then went on to ask Council for their guidance.

During discussion, Mayor Stephens expressed interest in allocating additional funding towards the Emergency Rent and Mortgage Relief program, with the addition of utilities assistance. Councilmember Dana Watson also expressed interest in allocating more funding for that program, specifically for students who are struggling to pay their rent. Council's next step is to set a public hearing for April 13 to consider approval of the FY 2022 CDBG-CV budget.

Schlusler-Schmitt's presentation continued by presenting the Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) Fiscal Year 2022 Entitlement Program Budget. She explained that the CDBG FY 2022 Budget recommendations include funding towards public service programs and public infrastructure programs.

The public service programs recommended to receive funding in FY 2022 include Haven House, Tri-County Office on Aging, MSU Safe Place and EVE, Inc. Schlusler-Schmitt also noted some of the public infrastructure programs that are recommended to receive funding in FY 2022, including the Home Ownership Assistance Program, Homeowner Rehabilitation Program, CDBG Sidewalk Project and Parks Improvement Projects.

During the final discussion, Council agreed they would like to market these programs more widely so more community members can take advantage of them. Mayor Stephens also noted that he would like to prioritize the public infrastructure funds to make City parks and City crosswalks more accessible for disabled community members.

Council's next step is to set public hearings for the FY 2022 CDBG budget at the April 13 and April 27 meetings and to hold a FY 2022 CDBG budget work session on April 20. View the agenda item report for the FY 2022 CDBG Programs discussion. (https://cityofeastlansing.civicweb.net/document/49245/Discussion%20of%20FY%2022%20Community%20Development%20Block.pdf?handle=3BE8EC298B074C7787EB6CB9284C1EF0)
To learn more about all items discussed during the meeting, view the Agenda Packet. (https://cityofeastlansing.civicweb.net/Portal/MeetingInformation.aspx?Org=Cal&Id=508)
Next Electronic Meeting: Tuesday, March 23


** Additional Information
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All special meetings are continuing to be held electronically during the COVID-19 pandemic. As special electronic meetings become finalized, additional information on each meeting will be posted on the City's new electronic public meeting notices webpage. (https://www.cityofeastlansing.com/2096/Public-Meeting-Notices-for-Electronic-Me)

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