‘We’re grant-poor’: Councilmember votes against Safe Streets resolution

The Lander City Council approved a resolution Tuesday that will allow the city to access federal infrastructure funding through the Safe Streets and Roads for All grant program.

One councilmember, Dan Hahn, voted against the resolution, expressing concern that the city is applying for too many grants.

“I like the resolution,” Hahn said. “I just think it’s too much money on the pile. …

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“We’ve got millions of dollars that we’ve applied for, (and) I’m just concerned on really how we’re going to pay for it.”

He was referring to the “matching” money the city usually has to contribute towards grant-funded projects.

“We’re grant-poor,” Hahn said. “It’s just scary. … We’ve got our fingers in everything.”

‘An investment’

Other council members argued that grant funding allows the city to provide more services than it could otherwise afford on its own.

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“We’re maximizing what we can do for our community,” Councilmember Chris Hulme said, pointing out that, in the case of the Safe Streets program, “a lot of that money comes from taxes that we pay to the federal government anyway.”

“Ultimately it’s our money coming back to our community,” Hulme said. “(And) we’re doing a lot of great things for the town because of it.”

Assistant mayor RaJean Strube Fossen said the Safe Streets grant program provides funding for local Complete Streets projects “similar to what we’re trying to do on Ninth Street, where we’re trying to get sidewalks for pedestrians, parking for cars, bicycle lanes for bicyclists, and cars, all in the same right-of-way.”

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“It’s for those types of projects – multimodal,” she said, “(It’s for) trails, bikes, walking, hiking, and vehicular access.”

Those kinds of accommodations make Lander “more desirable,” Hulme said, drawing more people to town to contribute additional tax money to municipal coffers.

“This is an investment,” he said. “(We’re) using these revenues to build economic stability for the future.”

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Councilmember Melinda Cox echoed Hahn’s concern that the city is potentially “obligating” itself to spend “a lot of money” on grant-funded projects – “I don’t ever want to get in over our heads,” she said – but she also added, “you always want to provide services, and you want to access these available dollars.”

Councilmember John Larsen agreed.

“We’ve got a responsibility to take care of a lot of these things, and if the money is available there right now, we ought to take advantage of it,” he said. “Let’s get it while it’s there.”

For more information call the City of Lander at 332-2870.

To access past meeting recordings, click here.

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