Community Crisis Intervention, City Hall Ventilation Among Proposed COVID Relief Spending Discussed by Duluth Council

More than a dozen citizens spoke out in support of what they call a community crisis response team independent of law enforcement.

DULUTH, Minn.- The Duluth City Council discussed accepting almost $60 million of federal funding for recovery from the pandemic and Mayor Emily Larson’s recommendations for how to spend that money.

Council unanimously tabled the resolution, to further discuss the Mayor’s following suggestions to allocate the money:

  • Affordable Housing: $20,678,130
  • Job Training and Workforce Services: $550,000
  • Utility Infrastructure and Broadband: $13,850,000
  • City Hall Ventilation and COVID Mitigation Improvements: $12,000,000
  • Improving Outdoor Spaces: $2,000,000
  • Assistance to Small Businesses, Tourism, Component Units, and Impacted Industries: $2,200,000
  • Public Safety Crisis Intervention and Community Violence Programs: $1,800,000

The rescue plan funds must be spent by December of 2026.

One of the hot button issues was the mayor’s idea to invest in Public Safety Crisis Intervention and Community Violence Programs.

More than a dozen citizens spoke out in support of what they call a community crisis response team independent of law enforcement.

Mayor Larson’s suggested allocations would be for new or enhanced government services that may be needed to meet behavioral health needs exacerbated by the pandemic and respond to other public health impacts.

It would allow the city to invest in public safety and social workers around community violence and crisis intervention programs and training.

Councilor Gary Anderson said he supports the investment into alternate public safety, and suggested diverting more money to that cause.

“We are going to suggest that the Social Work Pilot Program be increased by $300,000,” Councilor Gary Anderson said, “and at the same time that the Crisis Intervention Training Program and this is money that will be allocated to both the Fire Department and the Police Department I would say at the discretion of the administration with approval from this council, that that funding be increased by $378,000.”

“Really listen to and honor the voices of the officers that serve us everyday, what are the training they need that day believe are necessary,” said Anderson.

Meanwhile, Mayor Larson suggests $12 million to help make ventilation and COVID mitigation improvements to city hall.

That was a recommendation Councilor Joel Sipress agreed with, he said, due to the fact that the air quality of the building doesn’t meet OSHA standards and was hazardous during the pandemic.

“This is one cause I think Mayor Larson is absolutely correct,” Sipress said.

“200 people work in City Hall. There are people who are employed by the people of Duluth to serve the people of Duluth and right now they’re working in a hazardous building,” said the Second District Councilor.

The other half of The American Rescue Plan will come in May of 2022.

Council will be back in council chambers in person on August 1st.

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