EVERETT — A cleaner city could be on the horizon thanks to $1.1 million from the federal American Rescue Plan Act.
The Everett City Council on Wednesday voted 6-0 to spend $500,000 of the coronavirus response fund on public restrooms downtown and $600,000 to start a three-year Clean Everett program.
“Throughout the pandemic, not only did we have unsheltered people that were causing trash and accumulation, but we also had people that were really struggling,” Everett Community Development director Julie Willie told the council Wednesday. “They were losing their jobs and one of the first things to go is paying your garbage bill.”
The city received almost $20.7 million for COVID-19 relief and economic recovery. Some of it will be used to buy more temporary shelters to expand the city’s existing Pallet Shelter site and a potential new location .
Another $870,000 is marked for a homelessness service coordinator and case management services contract.
But most of the pot has been untouched as Mayor Cassie Franklin, the council and staff figure out how, where and when to spend it. The federal money, commonly referred to as ARPA, must be allocated by the end of next year and spent by the end of 2026.
Franklin has sought public bathrooms downtown, one of the city’s economic cores and a growing tourism destination. There aren’t any standalone public restrooms downtown, but people can use ones at the Everett Municipal Building and Everett Public Library during open hours.
She and other city leaders consider it a priority for ARPA to promote proper hygiene.
Staff were evaluating locations and did not have a cost breakdown.
Clean Everett will start with a citywide neighborhood cleanup day with a date to be determined. Out of that, the city hopes to find an outside agency to manage volunteer stewardship for regular beautification and cleanup events, similar to the city’s partnership with Forterra for its Green Everett program to manage its forests and natural areas.
The city also will launch a new mobile app so people can report any issues they see, such as graffiti, potholes, sidewalk disrepair and litter.
The current system of different phone numbers and online forms is inefficient, Economic Development director Dan Eernissee said. He has received complaints for issues he learned were based in Everett, Massachusetts. Other times staff take calls intended for different departments.
In the proposed app, information embedded in a smartphone’s photo would identify the location and then could filter to the proper department, Eernissee said.
“Our hope is it actually is more efficient than our current system, and it doesn’t suck as much time from our staff,” he said.
The city also intends to use the app to create a website with broad service information such as recycling centers, ways to report homeless encampments, Adopt a Street and more.