Fort Wayne council begins to spend COVID relief funds

Published: Sep. 28, 2022 at 10:58 AM EDT
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FORT WAYNE, Ind. (Fort Wayne’s NBC) - Figuring out how to spend nearly $51 million isn’t easy.

That’s the question Fort Wayne city councilors have been grappling with for months.

The funds came from the American Rescue Plan, a pandemic relief bill that was passed into law in 2021. While some jurisdictions have allocated their portion of the money, Fort Wayne’s leaders have contemplated their plan for some time. On Tuesday, City Council began spending it.

Grocery Store

Councilors approved $2 million for a recently announced community grocery store in southeast Fort Wayne. The store’s development will be led by the city and a yet-to-be-named partner (likely a local healthcare giant.)

City officials said the store will offer nutritious food and fresh produce at more affordable prices than other grocers, while offering job and skills training to neighbors. The concept is based on a community grocery in Toledo, Ohio, where a major healthcare provider partnered with local authorities to operate the store.

Parks and Streetscapes

Council approved money to fund improvements to several city parks and streetscapes.

Brewer Park: $2 million

Packard Park: $1.8 million

Franke Park phase one: $5 million

Streetscape improvements along Pontiac Street: $1.7 million

Garbage Collection

Councilman Russ Jehl has proposed spending no more than $10 million from the relief funds to reduce garbage collection fee increases. Earlier this year, the city fired solid waste hauler Red River waste Solutions after years of poor service.

The company hired to replace red River, GFL Environmental, is more expensive. That means fees will increase for city residents.

Jehl wants to use some money from the relief funds to stave off dramatic price hikes in the short term.

Officials in the city administration have pushed back against the plan.

On Tuesday, councilors agreed to discuss the matter again next week before decisions would be made.

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