Bay City asks how you would spend $31 million to transform the community

When the federal government awarded $31 million to Bay City as part of the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021, local people started dreaming. This week, the Bay City Commission formally started hearing about those dreams.

On Mon., June 14, the city commission heard details about five plans submitted for the money. Another hearing on additional plans is scheduled to take place at 5:30 p.m. June 21. The agenda for that meeting will be posted on the city website. There is still time to contact City Manager Dana Muscott to add your project to the list for the June 21 meeting, she said.

After the June 21 meeting, Muscott will post the projects that meet the federal requirements on the website for the public to review. If projects do not meet the federal requirements for the money, Muscott will not post them as they will not be eligible.

The city commission tentatively plans to hold town halls on June 27, 28, and 29 to gather public input on all the plans that meet the federal requirements. Commission President Jesse Dockett, 1st Ward, said the commission hopes to schedule a weekend, weeknight, and weekday town hall in order to accommodate people working different schedules. Muscott said the town halls will be held in local parks.

After public input, Dockett said the commissioners are scheduled to discuss the proposals on July 6 and 12.

The first round of projects included everything from baseball fields to new city parks to a multimillion dollar project that benefits businesses, attracts talent, and installs public internet access throughout the county to bridge the digital divide.

During a special meeting earlier this week, presenters explained five different projects. Commissioners asked some questions of the presenters but made no decisions.

The Bay City Commission is soliciting ideas for where $31 million could take the community.Presentations on Mon., June 14 included:
  1. A proposal supported by the Bay Area Chamber of Commerce, Bay Area Community Foundation, Bay City Public Schools, Bay Future, Michigan Works!, Michigan Small Business Development Center, United Way of Bay County, and the Dow Bay Area Family YMCA. The plan includes:
    • $1.4 million for small business grants
    • $600,000 for nonprofit organizations working with the ALICE (Asset Limited, Income Constrained, Employed) population
    • $500,000 for talent retention and attraction
    • $250,000 to improve business facades
    • $541,500 for small business support
    • $171,227 to remodel the Dow Bay Area Family Y kitchen to increase its capacity to help end hunger in the community.
    • $8 to $10 million for public internet access throughout the county
Bay Area Chamber of Commerce President Ryan Tarrant described the plan as a series of long-term investments to create transformational change in the community.

Bay Future President Trevor Keyes added the plan calls for supporting the small businesses that were especially hard hit by the pandemic. “Small business is the life blood of our community’s economy,” Keyes said.
  1. The Dow Bay Area Family Y asked for money to create the YMCA Uptown Park on an un-used piece of land behind the building at 225 Washington Ave. CEO Jim Vietti said the Saginaw Street property is empty now, but could be used for outdoor exercise classes, summer and winter recreation, and summer camps. When the YMCA isn’t actively using the property, Vietti pledged to leave it open to the public. The YMCA has the funding to maintain the property going forward, he added.
  2. The Saginaw Basin Land Conservancy (SBLC) proposed an active outdoor recreation park.  The SBLC proposes building a park filled with boulders for sports climbers to use on an eight-acre city-owned property near the Saginaw River. The park would be unique and could attract visitors from around the state. “This does not exist, to our knowledge, in Michigan,” SBLC President Zach Branigan told commissioners. The SBLC plan also calls for installing an ADA-compliant boat launch. Branigan asked the city to contribute $400,00 for the project while he hopes to raise another $300,000.
  3. The South End Little League proposed building a baseball complex in the community. The complex would offer local kids a chance to practice and play, but also attract tournaments. Tournaments would benefit the economy as families would stay in hotels, eat in restaurants, and shop at local stores.
  4. A $4 million proposal to repair 350 feet of Bay City Riverwalk between Uptown Bay City and Downtown Bay City. City Economic Development Project Manager Sara Dimitroff said the walkway was flooded in recent years. Improving the sidewalk would avoid future flooding and encourage people to move between businesses in the community. It also creates opportunities for recreation. The city has some money earmarked for the project, but construction costs have risen significantly in recent years, creating the need for additional funding.
Tarrant also said he has talked to some of the other agencies proposing plans and believes some of their ideas could fit into the coalition plan. He pointed out that the county population has declined in recent years and is projected to continue to shrink.

“If we don’t figure out a way to do some transformational things with these once-in-a-generation dollars to to change that trajectory then we’re just going to continue to do the same thing we’ve done for the last 50 years,” Tarrant said.
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