$1 million in ARPA funds given to kids for programs

Doing good is the imperative

By Josh Resnek

After more than a year of planning and discussion, the Everett Youth Initiative received an affirmative vote from the Everett City Council for a $1 million grant from the city’s ARPA funds.

Members of the Youth Initiative supporting the grant detailed exactly what the funding would be used for – which is a wide variety of projects which serve to improve the quality of life in Everett.

Wifi expansion, a tennis court near to Everett High School, and solar lighting were three of at least 50 suggested projects.

In the end, the council welcomed the grant and praised the young people as an example of the way young people should be.

Councillors John Hanlon, Darren Costa, and Vivian Nguyen voted in favor while Councillor-at-Large Stephanie Smith voted against the proposal that would fund the students’ choices for citywide projects.

Costa voted for the grant Monday night.

Smith stuck to her guns. She did not vote for the measure.

Smith believes the measure to be sound but insists that more oversight and attention must be paid before so large a sum of money is placed in an account for the city’s high school students to spend.

“I fully support the Youth Council and all the effort they have put into the participatory budget process to determine a list of ideas for spending the $1 million that Mayor and the City Council have allocated from the ARPA funds,” said Smith.

“I wouldn’t be doing my due diligence and upholding my responsibilities to the taxpayers by approving a blank check for $1 million with no estimates to how they will spend the money. Until the Council is provided with the anticipated costs per project, similar to the budget process we just went through for the entire city operating budget, I cannot vote in favor of the appropriation.”

Ward 2 City Councilor Stephanie Martins, an adviser to the Youth Initiative Council (School Committee member Samantha Lambert is the other adviser), said she understood Smith’s concerns.

“Councilor Smith has a track record of being extremely fiscally responsible and she does want to only vote on things that already have a known price, but at this time it’s not possible for the students to know the price, because they don’t know which of the projects will be voted on – they have to wait until the voting happens in September,” said Martins.

Fifteen projects were selected out of the 500 ideas that the Everett Youth Initiative Council received from residents.

“Out of the 15 projects, the projects that receive the most votes by the students, will be funded,” said Martins.

“There are projects such as refillable water stations at the parks, public WiFi at the parks, the purchase of air conditioners for housing, financing LGBTQ spaces, replacing street lighting with solar-powered lights, the addition of trash barrels to the streets, and creating little library stations for the dispensing of personal hygiene items. A lot of the projects are great in their different ways.”

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