Federal funds could pay for Everett bathrooms, gun buyback, more

City officials propose $7.95 million of American Rescue Plan Act money on a shelter, mental health support and more.

Everett

EVERETT — Almost $8 million in federal aid could pay for public bathrooms around downtown Everett, past due utility bills, mental health professionals and more.

Everett got almost $20.7 million from the federal American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA). The money must be spent by the end of 2026.

Last year, Mayor Cassie Franklin and her administration shared their broad plan to spend it on behavioral health services, early learning and child care, economic recovery, and homelessness support and shelters.

City officials on Wednesday detailed their $7.95 million vision for another round of 11 proposed spending items. It includes $2 million for a day shelter, $1.47 million for mental health support, $1 million for delinquent utility bills, $1 million for business grants, another $750,000 for public bathrooms and $25,000 for a gun buy-back program.

“Everybody’s really excited about bathrooms so I’m calling it a win,” Everett Community Development director Julie Willie told the council.

City staff are looking to put a daytime shelter in the central and north parts of Everett for people to get out of the cold and the heat. It would have services and staff, and could be repurposed as an emergency shelter or a health services site, Willie said.

Locations were not determined yet.

The $1.47 million for mental health support would be a two-year pilot program to embed mental health professionals in the fire and library departments.

Similarly, Franklin’s administration proposed adding $100,000 to the city’s human needs grants, a per capita fund of about $450,000.

Everett has over 1,700 utility accounts with bills at least 60 days past due, according to data provided by the city. It amounts to over $1.46 million. Over 1,500 of the accounts are for single-family homes.

Catholic Community Services, a nonprofit, runs one of the city’s current low-income assistance program that can pay up to $500 annually, public works spokesperson Kathleen Baxter wrote in an email. A household has to be at most 200% of the federal poverty level, which is $27,750 for a family of four, to qualify.

Another program can cover up to $2,500 per year for households earning at most 150% of the federal poverty level.

But that leaves a lot of people still in need of assistance to cover their sewer, stormwater and water bill with the city. City leaders wanted to offer utility bill assistance to avoid liens on homes and to help keep people housed, Willie said.

Spurred by the popularity of the first Everett Forward grants, Franklin’s administration proposed another round of $1 million for businesses. The requirements for it were not established yet.

“The first round of Everett Forward grants were so wildly popular and we had so many applicants, we would have loved to fund all of them,” Franklin told the council.

The Everett Police Department’s evidence room could move into the city-owned Culmback Building on Colby Avenue near Wall Street. The city’s considering using $400,000 from ARPA to fund design of its renovations.

The city listed the building for sale, but didn’t accept any offers. The current property room is in space leased for about $120,000 per year, Parks and Facilities director Bob Leonard said. But it has had leaking pipes and walls, water intrusion and mold, among other problems, Deputy Police Chief Jeraud Irving told the council.

Instead, the city could use the ARPA money to design renovations to the century-old Culmback Building and fund that work with the money it would spend on the evidence room lease, Leonard said.

“I think investing in city infrastructure is a very good use of ARPA dollars,” Franklin said. “We have for decades under-invested in city facilities.”

City staff previously proposed using the federal money for public bathrooms, but they wanted to increase the number to six at four locations. They are being considered at Clark Park, the Cope Gillette Theater, Everett Municipal Building parking lot, and at the EverPark Garage at 28th Street and Hoyt Avenue.

The gun buyback program was inspired by the success the Kirkland Police Department had with one this summer. Kirkland collected 151 firearms over two days in its “Guns for Gift Cards” program.

Ben Watanabe: 425-339-3037; bwatanabe@heraldnet.com; Twitter: @benwatanabe.

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