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Little Rock Board votes to delay spending American Rescue Plan funds

Little Rock City Hall
Brian Chilson
/
Arkansas Times
The Little Rock Board of Directors on Tuesday voted to delay deciding how to spend most of the federal money the city received as part of the American Rescue Plan.

The Little Rock Board of Directors has voted to wait 90 days to spend $5 million of the $6 million the city received as part of the federal American Rescue Plan.

After some debate Tuesday night, the board decided to spend $1 million dollars on City Director Kathy Webb's plan to combat food deserts. The problem involves some neighborhoods in the city not having grocery stores to provide fresh food. A Kroger on Col. Glenn Road was recently closed.

City Director Antwan Philips attempted to secure another $1 million for infrastructure projects in southeast Little Rock. His amendment was unsuccessful after the board voted to wait 90 days to decide on the fate of the rest of the money.

“As a person who grew up in wards 1, 2, 6, and 7 I don't want those residents to think that they always have to wait,” Phillips said. “What I am hearing from my colleagues is if you live in that ward as it relates to infrastructure and economic development you have to wait.”

City Director Capi Peck said the City of Little Rock is already working to fix the infrastructure.

“We just passed a mileage for infrastructure, so to say wards 1, 6 and 7 are going to have to wait, we are getting ready to have our public meetings – show up,” Peck said. “So we are going to be addressing these things. Also, in the first tranche, we approved something like $1.5 million for infrastructure and drainage”

Ward 1 City Director Virgil Miller supported the decision to hold off deciding how to spend the money. He said he hoped his decision would not be interpreted as being unsympathetic by the public.

“I see an opportunity when we come back, to allocate even more funds,” Miller said. “I want to see quite frankly that we try to make some progress, that we don't divide wards against each other, that we try to work together.”

City Director Dr. Dean Kumpuris agreed, explaining he didn't know where the city would be in 90-days and felt it was safer to wait.

Mayor Frank Scott Jr. disagreed with the board's decision arguing the city should take advantage of the funds now.

“There is going to be more dollars and more requests than we have funds,” Scott said. “The board policy, particularly with streets and drainage, is equality vs equity, meaning that each ward will receive an equal amount of money and we all know that there are certain wards that need more money than other wards.”

In 90 days, the Little Rock mayoral election will have occurred. Scott faces three challengers: Steve Landers, Jared Henderson and Glen Schwarz on Nov. 8.

Josie Lenora is a news anchor and reporter for UA Little Rock Public Radio. She grew up listening to KUAR and NPR News and says she is thrilled to give back to an organization she loves. Josie first interned in the fall of 2021 assisting in production for KUAR and KLRE, then in spring of 2022 spent a semester interning as a new anchor before joining the staff.