By Amir Ghani/Orange County Tribune
An amended American Rescue Plan Act proposal was passed by the Westminster City Council with a vote of 5-0 at its meeting on Wednesday. The budget of the ARPA funding has now been increased by $17,348,519 and an additional $150,000 has been allocated towards food security programs.
This comes after the council asked for the act to be amended by city staff at the city council meeting on Sept. 28, because of an “urgent need” to use some of the money to upgrade the city’s cybersecurity infrastructure and emergency service computer aided communication systems.
ARPA funds were approved by Congress to help cities, counties and states recover financially from the impact of the coronavirus pandemic.
The staff report outlined that the cuts to be made will effect a crime prevention program, which will suffer a $400,000 decrease, the cut of an emergency center refurbishment, a $75,000 decrease, which was moved into a separate police upgrade project, and a BeWell Community Outreach Services Contract, a $225,000 decrease.
There will be an increase in essential worker pay, with a total of $525,000 going towards premium pay for City of Westminster employees. A total of $4.3 million will also be going towards the improvements of ball fields at public parks and towards an addition of five playgrounds at different parks.
An unallocated balance of $350,000 was left over after the revisions made by city staff.
“Is there any area we can improve? Police? I want to dedicate that funding. The police department really needs more,” said Mayor Tri Ta before noting the quick action Westminster police took during the recent gun scare at Westminster High School.
“There’s always going to be a need [for police funding]…wishlists can grow and grow…our parks also need very much help,” said Vice Mayor Carlos Manzo.
Councilmember Chi Charlie Nguyen asked about the possibility of using some of the excess money towards food security for residents.
“We can definitely add more to food resilience programs … but it does take a lot of effort for staff to do that. It would be a consideration,” said Erin Backs, Westminster’s finance director.
“The reality is you don’t have to make a decision on that $350,000 right now,” said City Manager Christine Cordon, “It would be beneficial for us to take a look at what needs more money or less money.”
“For now let’s not get excited and allocate at another time,” said Manzo.