City of Dubuque outlines plans for spending stimulus funds

The city of Dubuque has a plan to spend its $13 million stimulus check.

City officials have already amended the current fiscal year budget to designate how it will spend the first $13 million tranche of federal funds it received earlier this year as part of the American Rescue Plan Act stimulus funding for local governments.

So far, the actual money spent from the stimulus bill has been minimal. About $371,000 was put toward asphalt overlay projects, $16,458 was administered to residents for utility bill assistance and $17,797 was spent on capital project design costs. Additionally, the city issued its first $67,606 allotment of stimulus funds to Travel Dubuque, which will receive a total of $270,427 in relief funding from the American Rescue Plan Act funds at the end of fiscal year 2022 on June 30, 2022.

While most of the funds remain unspent, On Sept. 20, Dubuque City Council members passed the budget amendment delineating how the remaining funds will be allocated, primarily focusing on funding a number of capital projects and operating initiatives.

“The city manager asked department managers what their priority projects are and how to use the American Rescue Plan funds,” said Jenny Larson, director of finance and budget for the city. “The primary impact for those projects is on residents.”

The budget amendment lists all of the projects that will be funded by the stimulus, with the majority focusing on infrastructure improvements.

The most expensive project to be funded, Catfish Creek Lift Stations Force Main improvements, is estimated to cost $3.546 million. Deron Muehring, Dubuque civil engineer, said about $1.2 million of the allotted funds will pay for finishing designs of the project, while the remainder will partially pay for construction. The remaining construction costs will be funded by the second tranche of federal funds the city expects to receive next year.

Other notable listed expenditures include fiber infrastructure expansion for $1.6 million, several parks improvements totaling $1.05 million, $250,000 for assistance grants to small businesses, nonprofits and arts groups and $333,000 in improvements to the Grand River Center.

Dave Ness, civil engineer for Dubuque, said the investment in fiber infrastructure will allow the city to further expand conduit, completing a 22-mile loop of fiber infrastructure in the city.

“The project is going to be making use of existing duct that we have been investing in,” Ness said. “It’s all about expanding that fiber connection in the city.”

Larson stressed that while the American Rescue Plan Act will fund these projects, some of them will likely not be completed by the end of the fiscal year.

“Some of the projects are going to take more than one fiscal year to complete,” Larson said. “I don’t really have an answer for when some of them will be completed.”

Additionally, a number of operational expenses will be covered by the stimulus bill. Along with the already underway assistance payments to Travel Dubuque, an additional $500,000 will be used for utility bill assistance.

While the utility bill assistance program is already underway, Teri Goodmann, director of strategic partnerships for the city, said the first phases of the small-business and non-profits grant program will not begin until next year.

The city expects to receive an additional $13 million as part of the American Rescue Plan Act in June 2022, though the city has not yet created budget amendments for how those funds will be used. However, City Manager Mike Van Milligen in previous city memos highlighted potential uses, including additional investment in fiber infrastructure to public facilities for $3 million, additional investment for completing the construction of improvements to the Catfish Creek Lift Station & force main and sanitary sewer infrastructure improvements.