New Albany leaders consider use of American Rescue Plan funds for businesses affected by construction
The New Albany City Council is considering whether American Rescue Plan (ARP) Funds can be used to aid small business owners who say their sales have dropped amid ongoing downtown construction.
Last week, council members Al Knable and Greg Phipps presented a resolution that would urge the redevelopment commission to reserve up to $500,000 in ARP funds for businesses impacted by the Main Street Revitalization Project.
Rather than vote on the measure, the council approved a committee to explore the issue.
The project will include new pavement, sidewalks and benches along several blocks of Main Street, and features expected to “improve pedestrian, cyclist, and motorist safety,” according to the City of New Albany’s website.
Business owners recently told LPM News they think the project will ultimately be a benefit, but that the torn up road and sidewalks have cut down on foot traffic and hurt sales.
Linda Williams is the owner at Chestnuts and Pearls, an art gallery at East Main and Bank streets. She’s been in business seven years, but said she’s seen a steady decline since 2020.
Williams said she and other owners in the area were disappointed that the council didn’t act on the resolution at the meeting last week, but said her hopes aren’t dashed yet.
“We have to let them see what they can do,” she said. “Hopefully, the city council will find a way to compensate us. But we just don't know.”
Williams said she wishes this phase could have at least started after the holidays.
“The timing of this, it's just terrible,” she said. “It's kind of like a mortal sin to block a retail business during the holidays. That's 25 to 30% of our annual income in any retail establishment.”
Knable and Phipps co-sponsored the resolution to push for ARP funds. But Knable said City Attorney Shane Gibson told members during the meeting that he’d conferred with outside counsel on it, and believes the measure as written doesn’t fit within the federal requirements for allocating funding.
Knable’s term ends Dec. 31, at which point he’ll start in his role as a county commissioner. But he said he hopes the committee can rework the document to be able to provide relief to the small businesses in the downtown corridor.
“I get it, there are guidelines, but I think we can [construct] something that fits within those guidelines,” he said.
Council member Josh Turner was the lone vote against forming the committee.
Knable voted to pass the resolution to the committee, saying he felt it wouldn’t have passed if put to a vote that night.
“I think if a vote would have been forced that night, the resolution would not have passed,” he said. “So the lesser of two evils was to go to committee and try to get it reworked.”
The committee is expected to review the resolution and bring the issue back to the council in January.
Correction: This story has been updated to reflect Josh Turner does not represent the district that includes downtown.
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