Red Wing City Council chambers

The city of Red Wing will receive $863,466.90 in American Rescue Plan Act funding this year. The funding will be divided between a small business loan program targeted toward veterans, women and minority-owned businesses; arts and culture; and the city’s water and sewer utility fund. 

The report on this topic by Council Administrator Kay Kuhlmann explained that “ARPA provides a unique opportunity for state and local governments to make strategic investments in long- lived assets, rebuild reserves to enhance financial stability and cover temporary operating shortfalls until economic conditions and operations normalize.”

Arts and culture funding 

During the City Council’s annual workshop, members of the council and staff discussed a possible percentage for the arts program, where a small percentage of capital project budgets (usually around 1%) are allocated for local art. 

The Arts and Culture Commission has been looking into creating a program like this in Red Wing. To get it started, the commission requested $100,000 in ARPA funding. According to a report by Brian Peterson and Jessica McGee, the Arts and Culture Commission chair and staff liaison, respectively, ARPA funding would be used for: 

  • Funding for professional services to facilitate the process of developing the ordinance

  • Initial funding of the arts fund to help cover administrative start up

  • Jump starting of funding to begin arts and culture projects prior to revenue becoming available through the percent for the arts program

Peterson told the City Council on Monday, “there's some upfront administrative costs that need to happen to really get the program up and going in a really successful way.”

The City Council will decide later whether the percentage for the arts program will start at a 1% or 2% of capital project budgets.

Business loan program 

Loan program details have not yet been worked out by the city. However, the idea is straightforward: provide funding for a loan program that is dedicated to advancing businesses that are owned by veterans, women and Black, Indigenous and people of color. 

Kuhlmann’s report notes, “We are aware that other cities have developed these programs and therefore feel program guidelines could be developed without much difficulty.”

Water and sewer utilities 

The majority of the ARPA funds will go to the city’s water and sewer utility fund. This funding will help the city transition into a new utility rate and, according to the staff report, “cover the cost loss in revenue in the water and sewer funds due to the delay in implementation.” 

The implementation of the new program was delayed to help residents recover financially from COVID-19 and to give city staff more time to make changes needed for the new billing process. 

City staff said that plans are in the works to have an article explaining the changes in an upcoming edition of the Republican Eagle.

Council comments 

While the Arts and Culture Commission asked for $100,000 in ARPA funding, city staff recommended giving the commission $25,000. Four of the five council members in attendance – Council Vice President Evan Brown was absent – stated they believed $25,000 was not enough for the arts. 

Laurel Stinson is the council liaison to the Arts and Culture Commission. 

“I think I've made that pretty clear in the past, that arts and culture is a vital… piece of our economy,” Stinson said. “And when we're talking about supporting arts and culture, we're talking about supporting the economy and our businesses at the same time. I think that $25,000 is not enough to get us jump started in this program.”

Stinson added that she would not vote for anything less than $50,000 for arts and culture.

In a 4-1 vote, the council passed a motion to approve $75,000 for the Arts and Culture Commission, $100,000 for the loan program and the remaining $688,466.90 going to the water and sewer utilities.

Council member Kim Beise voted against the motion. 

“With the rising cost of everything out there right now, from food to gas to get to work, any way we can help our citizens would be good,” Beise said. “I'm OK with the $25,000 for the arts and culture … arts is nice, but … if we don't get more businesses and don't help our citizens, we won't have people here to pay for anything, and we'll just have a pretty town.”

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