Ore dock
The remains of an old ore dock in Ashland jut out into Lake Superior on a crisp fall afternoon in October 2021. (Photo by JT Cestkowski)

City’s $17 million in ARPA funds would also be used to purchase electric and hybrid vehicles, and to address the environment.

City of Superior officials plan to spend $17 million in American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funds on a range of projects to address community needs, from $5 million to increase broadband internet access to $200,000 to add to available child care options.

Among other services funded by ARPA money approved by the Superior City Council are $2.35 million for upgrades for waterway, parks, and trees; $2 million for police vehicles and body and squad car cameras; $1.25 million in grant funding for nonprofits; $500,000 to address homelessness; and $100,000 for mental health services.

The city also will use ARPA money to purchase hybrid police cars and an electric emergency response vehicle for the fire department, and to rehabilitate the city’s historic Princess Theatre and Carnegie Library.

Those kinds of investments, most of which would not be possible without ARPA monies, will not only help Superior bounce back from the adverse financial impacts imposed by the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, but will help attract “business, remote learning, higher education, and telemedicine opportunities” to Superior, City Council member Jenny Van Sickle said.

Superior is among Wisconsin local governments deciding how to spend ARPA funds made available after Congress last March approved—with no Republican votes—the American Rescue Plan proposed by President Joe Biden to help the country recover from financial struggles posed by the coronavirus pandemic. 

Wisconsin local governments are receiving an estimated $2 billion and are using those dollars to address community needs ranging from lead pipes in drinking water systems, to improving outdated sewer systems, to money to assist social services agencies. State government received another $2.5 billion, which Gov. Tony Evers has used to address a wide range of needs. 

RELATED: How Local Wisconsin Officials Are Using American Rescue Plan Money

For instance, Milwaukee city officials will spend the nearly $400 million in ARPA funds that city received for a variety of initiatives, such as $30 million to address housing issues, $14 million toward workforce development, and millions more to address a significant problem with lead services lines that are part of the city’s outdated drinking water system.

Other cities, such as Stevens Point and Brookfield, plan to use some of their ARPA dollars to make up for revenue those municipalities lost during the coronavirus pandemic. La Crosse and Eau Claire are discussing plans to spend ARPA money to address PFAS contamination in groundwater. Still other local governments, like Superior, are using funds to expand broadband access, a significant need across much of Wisconsin.  

Some communities are discussing ARPA expenditures to address such purposes as addressing a lack of affordable housing, homelessness, and other social services-related efforts that often have chronic funding shortfalls. In Superior, Van Sickle proposed expanding child care options in the form of grants or forgivable loans after a couple in the city who provided childcare for many years were evicted from their site in January. 

Impacted families “lined up in front of City Council to talk about the emergency need for child care spaces and about the lurch they were put in [when the couple was evicted],” Van Sickle said. 

Superior Mayor Jim Paine said the city is using some of its ARPA dollars to make inroads on such issues as mental health and poverty as a recognition of the serious impact they have on people and society. The $1.25 million in grants for nonprofits are intended to help address them. 

“We are directly confronting mental health, addiction, poverty, homelessness, domestic violence, and human trafficking in Superior,” he said, noting those expenditures will “support our city’s most vulnerable people.”