American Rescue Plan helps fix local brownfields, fire stations, hospitals, sidewalks, and more

Pinellas County has received millions of dollars through the American Rescue Plan to redevelop brownfields and, in some instances, sell the land for new development.

Brownfields are created where environmental cleanup is necessary. In Pinellas County, that includes several former landfills. The landfills are not toxic but do require work to shape them up for redevelopment and ensure the soils and groundwater under them are in good condition.

In many cases, these old landfills sit in prime real estate areas, something valuable to a county like Pinellas, which is pretty much built-out.

“We went through a whole vision process where they (the U.S. Treasury Department) said, ‘We need your wish list of projects. What are some of the hard-to-do projects for once in a lifetime funding opportunity?’,” says Daniel Nedvidek, with Pinellas County’s Brownfield Redevelopment Program.

“We proposed a bunch of projects,” he says. “We have a team that talks with the Treasury Department to make sure our projects meet federal guidelines, then we go to the county commission, and they approve the first funding level.”

One of the landfills receiving redevelopment funding is Toy Town, a closed landfill near the Gateway area. The others are the 119th Street landfill and one in the Dansville community.

“Most of these landfills were constructed in the 1970s and not lined. They are not industrial waste, but mostly construction debris,” Nedvidek says.

“Pinellas is super built-out and Toy Town is 240 acres near the bridge off I-275 in a highly developed industrial area,” he says. “The 119th backs up to McKay Creek and Ridgecrest Park right behind the Florida Botanical Gardens. That’s another area that is a great place to develop.”

The county is not selling all of the land. In some cases, it will use the properties to expand greenway trails. The county parks and recreation department will lead the redevelopment effort. The Public Works department is also involved.

In all, Pinellas County received $189 million through the American Rescue Plan of which $7 million was earmarked for brownfield redevelopment over the next five years. “It will take every penny of it” to complete the work, Nedvidek says.

Already, Pinellas County has done a partial cleanup at the Dansville site where it worked with Habitat for Humanity to build single family workforce housing. “They built 14 houses on reclaimed landfill and are working on 16 more houses,” Nedvidek says.

The City of Clearwater received $11.2 million in May 2021 and is expecting an equivalent amount in May 2022, but has yet to determine how to use the total of $22.5 million.

Hillsborough County picks a different direction

Hillsborough County has not earmarked any money for brownfield cleanup but is using American Rescue Plan funds to rebuild three fire stations that are all over 60 years old, a county spokesman said. One is in the Palm River area and two are in the Carrollwood area.

Hillsborough County also used federal funds to set up a system to help nonprofit agencies get back on their feet and will use funds for long-overdue road resurfacing projects. It also announced just recently $16.4 million in American Rescue Plan funds will go to three local hospitals.

Tampa General Hospital will continue development of 28 dedicated inpatient infectious disease beds. Advent Health Carrollwood Hospital will repurpose two structures to expand COVID-19 surge capacity. And St. Joseph’s Hospital will build a 25-bed inpatient psychiatric progressive medical unit at St. Joseph’s Hospital North.
The City of Tampa got $13.4 million to renovate fire stations and vehicles and for peak unit services, technology and scholarships.

Housing and Community Development will receive $16.1 million for, among other things, Unrestricted Owner-Occupied Rehabilitation for recipients earning less than 80% of the average median income and for home repairs costing less than $50,000. 
Tampa is also using ARP for rental infill, homeless outreach, a build-ready program targeting strategic property acquisition and parcel remediation to reduce the cost of building income-qualifying units.

Its Mobility Department will spend $7.2 million on sidewalks and resurfacing, and the Tampa Police Department will get $3 million for vehicles, aviation maintenance and body cameras. Solid Waste will receive $5.5 million for the Solid Waste Relocation to 34th Street Capital Project ($5.5 million in revenue loss in 2020).

Reinvigorating the economy

The American Rescue Plan, sometimes referred to as the COVID-19 Stimulus
Package, is a $1.9 trillion economic stimulus bill passed in 2021. 

The funding can be used for a wide variety of projects and services, from emergency assistance to non-public schools to funding for child abuse prevention, community health centers and projects such as brownfield redevelopment.

American Rescue Plan funds do not have to be reimbursed.

The idea behind the federal plan is to reinvigorate the economy by funding projects that may have been put on hold due to the coronavirus pandemic. Applications for the funding must be made through Grants.gov.
 

Read more articles by Yvette C. Hammett.

Yvette C. Hammett, a native Floridian and a graduate of the University of Florida, has spent much of her career as a professional journalist covering business, the environment, and local features throughout the Tampa Bay Area. She is an avid camper and outdoors person who has also been involved in local events for foster children and the elderly.