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Peoria to spend remaining $1.2M in anti-violence ARPA funds on lighting, landscaping

The Peoria City Council plans to continue their discussion on short term rentals at their Tuesday, Dec. 12 meeting at city hall.
Collin Schopp
Peoria City Hall.

The Peoria City Council has unanimously approved a $1.2 million spending plan for the remaining American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funds set aside for violence prevention.

The city will use $500,000 to install alley and porch lights on private properties located in areas deemed “hot spots” by the police department. The other $700,000 will pay for “scrub tree removal, tree trimming and vacant lot clearance,” allowing for more light in darker areas.

The council, meeting Tuesday, approved a $2.3 million ARPA plan last year that focused on widespread non-violence programming and nonprofit organizations. Much of this money has yet to be or is only just beginning to be spent.

“Some of the names of the organizations involved: Dream Center, the Health Department, Big Brothers Big Sisters, Goodwill, Friendship House, the YMCA, it goes on,” said Third District council member Tim Riggenbach.

Now, this new and final plan for the remaining ARPA funds represents a different strategy in the overarching goal of violence prevention.

“We’ve invested previously in programming and really trying to invest in our citizens to address this issue, and now we’re looking at some environmental ways in order to combat the complex issue that is violence in our community” said Fourth District council member Andre Allen.

“We need a holistic approach . . . there’s a plethora of research that proves that green spaces or environmental protection helps our citizens. Not only removing some of those barriers, but also creating a higher quality of life” said at-large council member Dr. Bernice Gordon-Young.

Second District council member Charles Grayeb believes the plan will ultimately help reduce crime, particularly crime committed by repeat offenders: “Cleaning up our spaces does have a psychological impact,” he said.

But at-large council member Mike Vespa said the spending plan might instead be better allocated toward more trauma-informed programming.

“I am a little bit conflicted about this proposal. And it’s not because I don’t believe in environmental design deterring crime,” Vespa said. “But I don’t like getting away from trauma-informed counseling, mentorship, programs like that, that are designed to help people . . . it’s kind of a new concept in terms of anti-violence funding. The city of Philidelphia is doing it right now, they’ve allocated a lot more money than we have. Seventy-five percent of folks in those programs felt safer in the community, 77% improved their situation, 86% were satisfied with the programs.”

Still, Vespa conceded the proposed environmental plan and trauma-informed approaches do not have to be at odds, before voting to approve the spending plan along with the rest of the council.

More affordable housing coming to South Peoria

The council also unanimously approved a $1.25 million grant in HOME funds (awarded via the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development) for the construction of a new affordable housing project, Churchview Garden Homes LLC, to be located in the South Village TIF District.

There will be 47 new affordable housing units in Churchview Gardens, and all units will serve households with less than 80% of the area medium income.

Contract awarded for Public Works building remodel

The council voted, with Denise Jackson dissenting, to approve a contract bid with construction company D. Joseph Construction Co., in the amount of $1.79 million, to remodel the Public Works building on Dries Lane.

Since 2012, the Peoria Public Works department has advocated for changes to the building that was originally meant for labs and vehicles, and currently does not provide sufficient space, heating, or cooling for staff.

Budgetary constraints, exacerbated by COVID, slowed down plans for the remodel.

First District council member Jackson noted the company’s failure to meet a minimum of 15% minority participation.

“With [the contractor’s] 3% minority participation, that does not indicate to me that there was a good faith effort put forth. When I brought forth this issue two years ago, Mr. manager . . . have we changed, have we done anything differently with regards to how we approach this process? Minorities and women are not in a position to even compete, especially if they’re a smaller company.”

Jackson requested a report back on minority participation data, which City Manager Patrick Ulrich agreed to provide.

Andrea graduated from Richwoods High School in 2015 and from Grinnell College in 2019. She joined the station as a correspondent in 2023.