NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WTVF) — Roughly $189 million is up for grabs in Metro Nashville and you get to decide how we spend it thanks to a new survey.
Anyone living in Davidson County can visit Hub Nashville for the American Rescue Plan (ARP) survey. There you rank where we should spend what’s left of this federal funding from “1” being most important, to “5” being the least.
The deadline to complete the survey is the end of January and Nashville will have until June 2025 to allocate this money.
Metro Council member Sandra Sepulveda is also on the committee that presents the results of these findings to the council. She calls it transformative money we could use any number of ways. Other cities have used this funding for infrastructure, buses, and more green space.
“We’ve got some great ideas and we’ve got a draft guide, but we want to make sure that the draft guide matches up with what the community wants,” Sepulveda said.
That includes businesses or organizations impacted by the pandemic that could use help. You’ll find an area at the bottom of the survey to write any groups or issues you feel may not have been included in Metro’s list.
Topics such as affordable housing have been talked about for years and council member Joy Styles expects this to be a priority for most.
“As we know our city is growing exponentially. The need is still there for more affordable housing,” Styles said.
Nashville already spends millions each year through The Barnes Fund, but estimates show we could still be short 50,000 housing units by 2030. We would need to find a way to create more than 5,250 affordable units each year. Metro averages about 1,350 units yearly.
Styles says while this money could be a solution, it’s still up to you.
“A lot of times what you hear is that people feel like decisions are being made in the dark that is directly impacting them. So for us to be transparent, this survey puts us on the right track,” Styles said.
Council members have already talked about updating police cruisers with some of the original $267 million given by the ARP. Sepulveda says Metro has already allocated $78 million to capital projects like fleet requests.
Styles says her sights are on renting or even buying more garbage trucks so we’re not left once again waiting weeks for trash pickup.
“You ask me what is important? That is important to me. It is critical to me that we give some money to make sure that amid a global pandemic, we aren’t creating additional problems for public health by letting trash sit around uncollected,” Styles said.
Red River Waste Solutions notified city leaders in December that they were overwhelmed. They explained that it was no longer feasible with 21 routes and 14 or fewer trucks.
Mayor John Cooper wrote in a scathing message criticizing the company for failing the city, that he would divert resources from recycling over to trash collection. At this point, trash pickup was already behind three weeks in some parts of the Metro. By taking recycling trucks and moving them over to trash, they hope to get back on track. It also means that curbside recycling pickup is on hold until further notice.
“We will learn from this experience. We will learn what works and what doesn’t so we can implement it even better the next time,” Styles said.
In the end, it’s a budget for a better Nashville with money we may never see again. At least with this survey, you decide if it’s money well spent.