Ottawa County details $57 million in ARPA money payouts

Ottawa County will distribute $57 million in federal American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) money. The federal aid is intended to address the economic impact of the pandemic and ensure a strong and equitable recovery. The county will use the money to help increase staffing numbers for nonprofits, improve and expand natural areas available to the public, create more affordable housing, and other projects.

After a thorough selection and review process, the proposals listed below were approved by the Ottawa County Board of Commissioners on Nov. 22. For the most part, the money has been distributed or contracts signed to do so, county officials say.The approved proposals fall into three categories: Social and human services, affordable housing, and county projects.

Social and human service projects
Social and Human Service Projects funded by the Ottawa County ARPA money will have the goal of addressing social and health disparities (such as mental health, childcare and early childhood development) exacerbated by the pandemic.

Recruitment and retention for mental health professionals
Community Mental Health of Ottawa County (CMH) and healthcare partners

WHAT Accessing mental health care was already an issue locally prior to COVID-19. Post-pandemic, wait times for mental health counseling services can be four to six weeks. This wait is even longer for those in need of a psychiatrist or other practitioner who can prescribe and manage medication. Working with other area health care organizations, CMH will create a fund to hire six to 10 new medical professionals. To select these professionals, CMH will create a practitioner committee made up of CMH, Holland Hospital, PineRest, InterCare and at least one community-based health care provider.

FUNDED $1 million

Children's Advocacy Center staffing expansion
Ed and Nancy Hanenburg Children's Advocacy Center (CAC), a nonprofit based in Holland, which addresses and assists with child sexual abuse cases

WHAT Because of the pandemic, CAC has a large backlog of cases. These funds will allow the organization to hire more staff to increase their capacity, allowing them to serve more children and families who are victims of abuse.

FUNDED $211,750

Reach for Recovery staffing expansion
Reach for Recovery, a nonprofit provider of addiction treatment services, with centers in Holland and Grand Haven

WHAT Drug overdose deaths have been on the rise nationally, increasing 29% in 2020 and 15% in 2021. Ottawa County lost 29 people to overdoses in 2021. Reach for Recovery accepts all clients, regardless of their ability to pay. These funds will be used to expand its medication assisted treatment program and provide enhanced physical and mental health support for the 160 clients who receive treatment each year.

FUNDED $337,500

Benjamin's Hope friends enjoying the accessible swing set at the Park Township campus.

GRCC direct care provider certification programs
Nonprofits Benjamin's Hope, Harbor House Ministries, Heritage Homes Inc., and MOKA Corp., organizations that work to improve the lives of and care for those with developmental differences or mental illness, in partnership with Grand Rapids Community College and Community Mental Health

WHAT Use ARPA funds to stabilize and expand the number of local direct service providers by collaboratively piloting a certificate program. Partnering with Grand Rapids Community College and Community Mental Health of Ottawa County, this program would provide training for students to enter the direct care field, specifically serving adults with mental illness and developmental differences. Employing these ARPA funds, these four nonprofit care providers will employ a combined total of 40 eligible participants by sponsoring the cost of the GRCC certification.

Benjamin's Hope: $55,919.75
Harbor House Ministries: $103,294
Heritage Homes, Inc.: $103,294
MOKA Corp.: $87,492.25

Childcare and early childhood learning centers expansion
Outdoor Discovery Center Network, the Ottawa Area Intermediate School District, and local businesses

WHAT Ottawa County has nearly twice as many children as available childcare slots, and more programs for the 0-5 age group are needed, according to a report from the Michigan League for Public Policy.

Alongside its conservation and restoration work, ODC operates several early childhood education program sites. Nearly 400 children receive preschool instruction, wrap-around care services, and full-time child care. ARPA funds will enable the ODC Network to reduce the local gap in child care capacity by 10% over the next three years. To do so, it will work with its partners to create 1,000 additional child care spots across the county, using local employer sites. ODC plans to accomplish this through a coalition of partners, including the Ottawa Area Intermediate School District and local businesses.

FUNDED $7.5 million (conditionally, per the review of federal guidelines)

Robinson Landing mixed income neighborhood was made possible by the Housing Next Partnership and a $1.5 million impact investment from the Grand Haven Area Community Foundation.
Affordable housing projects
Several projects aim to increase the amount of affordable housing available in Ottawa County. Affordable housing is at critically low levels, causing problems for residents that overflow into other parts of their lives.

Affordable Housing Revolving Loan Fund
Housing Next, a pilot program of the Greater Ottawa County United Way, which works with with local governments, developers, and nonprofits to create affordable housing, in partnership with the county.

WHAT Housing Next has developed a plan to help address affordable housing needs by having the county grant $8 million in ARPA funds to a designated and qualified Community Development Finance Institution (CDFI), which will operate and administer the fund. The selected CDFI will use the ARPA funds to provide low-interest loans for affordable housing projects.

FUNDED $10 million

First Hope at 10th Street apartments
Dwelling Place, a 501c3 nonprofit developer and property manager, in partnership with Hope Church and First United Methodist Church

WHAT This project will create 46 new affordable rental units in downtown Holland, closing gaps for the local workforce who serve downtown Holland but cannot afford to live there. Thirty-five of the 46 units will serve single adults and/or families earning 40%-60% of the county annual median income ($26,000 per year for a single individual, up to $56,000 for a family of four). Eleven will be reserved for adults with disabilities who are unable to work full-time.

FUNDED $2 million contingent upon receiving a state housing tax credit

Samaritas Affordable Living of Spring Lake
Samaritas, an affordable living nonprofit, in partnership with Pinnacle Construction and Chesapeake Community Partners

WHAT A 53-unit affordable housing development in the Village of Spring Lake for low-income families, couples, and seniors, with eight units reserved for those with special needs or other disabilities, and eight more reserved for members or descendants of the Little River Band of Ottawa Indians. MSHDA standards will determine rents and be available for those at a range of 30%-80% of the annual median income for Ottawa County.

FUNDED $1.5 million contingent upon receiving a state housing tax credit

County projects

The largest portion of ARPA money will help offset inflation costs for county employees with a one-time payment. Other county projects include upgrading digital infrastructure, repair physical infrastructure, and improving and expanding natural areas available to the public.

Juvenile Court youth and parent online portal
The 20th Judicial Circuit Court, which handles a variety of criminal, civil, family, juvenile and appellate cases

WHAT A publicly accessible youth and parent online portal to handle juvenile court cases. Individuals involved with the juvenile court would be able to access the court as well as information about their individual case and court programs online.

FUNDED $20,000

Public meeting technology for clerk and board of commissioners
Ottawa County Clerk/Register of Deeds

WHAT a digital electronic voting system would allow the county clerk to perform roll calls for the Ottawa County Board of Commissioners meetings electronically. The board members would also be able to cast their votes electronically. The app would provide added transparency and improve ease of access for board members, county employees who assist the Board, and the general public.

FUNDED $100,000

Department of Health and Human Services roof repair
Ottawa County Facilities Maintenance Department

WHAT Repair the roof of the County Department of Health and Human Services Building in Holland Township. Repairing the deteriorating rubber roof now will save the County money in the long-term.

FUNDED $350,000

Sheriff's shooting range HVAC system upgrade
Ottawa County Facilities Maintenance Department

WHAT Install a modern HVAC system at the Sheriff Department's indoor shooting range and training facility. The building was constructed without air conditioning. To provide necessary ventilation during the summer months, exhaust fans are used, which causes condensation on the cooler cement floor, creating dangerously wet and slippery conditions. A modern HVAC system will keep the floors dry by reducing humidity levels, creating a safer training environment for the county police force.

FUNDED $395,000

Idema Explorers Trail projects
Ottawa County Parks and Recreation Department

WHAT The Idema Explorers Trail is a 24-mile non-motorized trail project that will ultimately  connect Grand Haven to the Grand Rapids area and beyond. ARPA money will be used to complete several shovel-ready sections of the trail:

1. The Bea Idema Eastmanville legacy segment, which will link the north side of Allendale Township and Eastmanville Bayou County Park with future Idema trail segments

2. The Stearns Bayou Connector section, which will connect the Sgt. Henry E. Plant Memorial Grand River Bridge non-motorized pathway and Spoonville Trail to the city of Grand Haven

FUNDED $2 million

Middle Macatawa trail system projects
Ottawa County Parks and Recreation Department

WHAT The Macatawa Greenway is a network of protected public and private lands that link the southeastern portion of Ottawa County to Lake Michigan, generally following the path of the Macatawa River and Lake Macatawa. These funds will be used to link sections of publicly accessible land along the river (including the county-owned Hawthorn Pond and Upper Macatawa Natural Area and ODC Network’s "Middle Macatawa" preserve properties) with a new, 2.8-mile Middle Macatawa Trail, and provide modern restrooms at Hawthorn Pond and Upper Macatawa parks.

FUNDED $906,000

Ottawa Sands Park Improvements
Ottawa County Parks and Recreation Department

WHAT Ottawa County purchased Ottawa Sands, a former sand mine, in 2019. In 2021 the Ottawa Sands Master Plan was adopted, and it features several projects designed to restore and open up access to the park and its Grand River Greenway features. ARPA funds will be used to jumpstart Phase I of this master plan, which includes accessibility and ecological restoration work. Improvements include building a paved entry drive, and parking; a campground; kayak launch; trail boardwalks; modern restrooms; a 1.6-mile paved loop around the Ottawa Sands Lake; and a connection to the Idema Explorers Trail.

FUNDED $3.4 million

Crime Victim's Assistance Fund
Ottawa County Prosecutor's Office

WHAT Although the Ottawa County Prosecutor's Office receives state funding for crime victims who face financial hardships directly related to a crime, the need outweighs the resources. For many lower-income and disadvantaged crime victims in Ottawa County, expenses associated with a crime can quickly mount beyond their ability to pay. There is also concern the state money will dwindle and eventually be discontinued. In 2022, the county office received $13,398 from the state. All but $378 was spent in the first nine months of the year. For 2023, the county is receiving $11,877. The Ottawa County Prosecutor's Office plans to use ARPA funds to establish a self-sustaining “Crime Victim Assistance Fund.”

FUNDED $1 million

Food excess into healthy food access expansion
Ottawa Food and Community Action House

WHAT The U.S. Department of Agriculture estimates more than 30% of food in the U.S. isn't consumed. With approximately 9% of the Ottawa County population listed as 'food insecure' according to a 2019 Feeding America report, Ottawa Food and Community Action House teamed up to create Lakeshore Food Rescue. Currently this collaborative pilot program works with grocery stores, corner markets, restaurants, and farmers to collect and redistribute food to needy Holland-area residents. Ottawa Food and CAH will use ARPA funds to expand the LFR operation countywide. LFR will be able to purchase two new food rescue vehicles, supplies for storing and transporting food, buy and set up an app, and hire three additional staff members to assist in the expansion.

FUNDED $486,675

Medicaid cost-based reimbursements for public health
Ottawa County Department of Public Health

WHAT The Ottawa County Department of Public Health assists underserved and under-represented adults, children and families with a variety of health-related services. Normally the OCDPH receives reimbursements for providing these services from the state Medicaid Cost Based fund. However, due to the pandemic, state payments are two years behind. Because of the reduction in services caused by the pandemic, OCDPH is losing $1.5 million in revenue over the next two fiscal years. With these ARPA funds, OCDPH will be able to ensure essential health services continue and avoid disruption in services to residents.

FUNDED $1.5 million

Accelerating farmland protection
Ottawa County Agricultural Preservation Board

WHAT Ottawa County's agriculture industry is a major economic driver, producing more than $506 million in products annually. But development pressures and a lack of new farmers means total farmland acreage is shrinking, having lost 8% from 2012-2017 (Ag Census 2017). The cornerstone of the county's efforts to protect farmland is the Purchase of Development Rights Program, which has been used to leverage $3.3 million to permanently preserve 728 acres of prime farmland. However, interest far outpaces funding. The county has received applications to preserve more than 4,500 acres to date. With ARPA funds, purchase of development rights can be accelerated and aimed specifically at buying conservation easements in priority areas, such as locations known to have groundwater challenges. These additional funds will also enable staff to put more efforts into outreach and education to the seven townships that do not participate in the Purchase of Development Rights Program.

FUNDED $1 million

Inflation relief payment
Ottawa County

WHAT One-time payment for the 1,200 county employees to offset the record inflation measuring 8.2% for the 12 months ending September 2022. Giving employees a one-time payment offers financial relief and facilitates employee loyalty without binding the county to the cost year after year as a wage increase would.

FUNDED $5.2 million
Enjoy this story? Sign up for free solutions-based reporting in your inbox each week.

Read more articles by Andrea Goodell.