Lawrence council OKs expenses, postpones ARPA funding request


The Lawrence Common Council’s midmonth meeting June 21 focused on approving expenses submitted by the city, and there were some questions.

Lisa Chavis

At-Large Councilmember Lisa Chavis wanted more information about some large expenses for vehicle leases, including $26,000 and $23,000 for ambulances, and about $45,000 for a firetruck, specifically the frequency of the payments.

City Chief of Staff Cori Korn was present but didn’t have the detailed information needed to answer those questions. Chavis initially wanted to pull and delay approval of those items from the list of expenses to be approved, but Korn called the city’s controller, Tyler Douthit. 

Douthit explained over the phone that the leases are semi-annual payments made for various first-responder vehicles. With that explanation, Chavis withdrew her motion to postpone the items, and expenses were unanimously approved by the council. 

The council took no action on two related items listed under unfinished business, postponing a vote for a later time. Both have been on the agenda since May 1, when they were referred to the finance committee. That committee has not yet met. City Clerk Kathy Walton said in an email that the finance committee is scheduled to meet at 5:30 p.m. July 10.

The items are an ordinance to appropriate about $3 million from the city’s American Rescue Plan Act funds, and a resolution specifying how those funds would be spent. Both are cosponsored by Council Members Sherron Freeman, District 3; and Tom Shevlot, District 5. 

The City of Lawrence received about $11.2 million through the federal ARPA pandemic relief plan. In 2022, the city spent about $5.5 million on sewer and stormwater infrastructure, street paving, and other projects. The council decided in early March to move all remaining ARPA funds to the 2024 budget, to be spent on not-yet-identified projects. 

The proposal now under consideration would amend the ARPA spending plan for specific projects. They are:

  • $1 million to match a recently awarded state grant for street improvements
  • $280,000 to match a grant for trail development and improvements
  • $1.6 million to replace public safety vehicles 
  • About $50,000 for education and training, and facility repairs for the fire department
  • About $95,000 for police cameras, and for the police department’s new-hire and promotions process

If the council eventually approves the appropriation, it would leave about $2.6 million for 2024 city projects.

Also during the June 21 meeting, council members honored Lawrence resident Deb Cooper, who died the prior weekend, with a moment of silence in recognition of her contributions to the community. 

Council President Tyrrell Giles, District 1, recognized Arts for Lawrence and the Metropolitan School District of Lawrence Township for the community’s Juneteenth celebration, which took place June 17 at the Fort Ben Cultural Campus. He said it was well done, and well attended. 

“I also went to the Indy celebration downtown,” he said. “Ours was better. I’m very proud of that.”

At Large Councilmember Shawn Denney congratulated all the graduates from Lawrence North and Lawrence Central high schools;  and all the council members wished District 2 Councilmember Rick Wells a happy birthday.