The Washtenaw County Board of Commissioners met Wednesday to discuss the allocation of the Michigan State Police Coronavirus Emergency Supplemental Funding Grant.
The board unanimously approved the grant, which allocated $250,000 to partially reimbursing the Trial Court for Washtenaw County for audio-visual technology. This technology helps offer remote hearings in alignment with new state court administrative mandates related to COVID-19, and the remainder of the money is distributed to other pressing public concerns.
The board began the meeting with comments from the public about allocation of remaining federal funding from the American Rescue Plan. During this time, Ann Arbor resident and School of Social Work Professor Sue Ann Savas described the comments she received from many members of the eastern side of the county about the funding.
“I believe that the board should invest the rest of the American Rescue Plan money on the eastern side of the county,” Savas said. “Many residents in these communities understandably do not trust elected officials due to a long history of being marginalized and ignored.”
Pittsfield Township resident Lisa Smerek attended the meeting to discuss the setbacks faced by Washtenaw County residents, particularly children. She said that a portion of the remaining COVID-19 emergency funds should be allocated to providing resources that improve literacy.
“I would like $6 million … to go to the grassroots groups, and my particular interest is in the groups that have a literacy component,” Smerek said.
Commissioner Jason Morgan, D-District 8, represents the City of Ann Arbor. Morgan emphasized the importance of literacy, agreeing with previous comments.
“Literacy is a specific issue that needs to be addressed,” Morgan said. “I think in my time working for the WCC I would agree that this is such an important issue to work on.”
Commissioner Ricky Jefferson, D-District 6, spoke about his experience working in numerous public service areas, which he said strengthened his knowledge of residents’ needs.
“(It) afforded me with a deeper understanding of the educational setbacks and resource allocation issues facing the county,” Jefferson said. “Not only did COVID put our students behind because of lack of speed for good internet service, but we were also behind before we got there.”
The commissioners also discussed the distribution of Washtenaw County’s flood resources. In July 2021, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer signed Senate Bill 27 to help communities rebound from flooding in southeast Michigan.
Ypsilanti resident Eric Mohamed had to deal with severe property damage to his home due to the flooding. Mohamed shared a story about his recent encounter with a contractor to estimate the price of redoing his basement, noting the difficulty of the situation.
“I know we got a couple $100,000 from the $10 million that the governor made available in August,” Mohamed said. “It will be 80 grand to redo my basement, and that’s on top of the probable $15,000-$20,000 that was spent pumping feet of water out of the basement. There’s money and I would love to understand more about when that money will be available for residents and what that process will be like.”
Jefferson said he understood that the process was inefficient and why many residents were frustrated.
“As far as the flood relief dollars from the state, we’ve had those issues since August and I haven’t seen anything yet,” Jefferson said. “So I’m really upset because the process doesn’t take two and half months to build, I would be frustrated too if I (were you).”
This story has been updated to reflect that Morgan is no longer the chair of the Board of Commissioners.
Daily News Contributor Sejal Patil can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.