Southern Az set for big investments from $1.7T federal spending package
More than a $36 million will go towards major projects in Pima County, Tucson & PCC, among others
Upwards of $36 million from the $1.7 trillion federal spending package that Congress passed last Thursday will go towards improving public programs and infrastructure in Southern Arizona.
U.S. Sens. Mark Kelly and Kyrsten Sinema announced on Thursday that $132 million from the huge spending package was heading to Arizona, paying for upgrades to law enforcement, health care access, education and water infrastructure for tribes and towns.
In Southern Arizona a wide range of public projects will benefit from the huge spending package. Workforce development efforts will get big boosts in Pima County, and Tucson will be able to renovate parks, pools and facilities and break ground on a shovel-ready homeless shelter. Several nonprofits are also due to receive funding.
The largest share of those funds headed for Arizona from Washington D.C. is the $12 million that Morris Air National Guard Base will receive to build a gate complex at the Tucson International Airport, where the base is located.
The new gate is required to meet safety standards for guardsmen, Brig. Gen. Jeffrey Butler, who commands the base, wrote in a press release. It will also protect drivers who commute on the roadways near the base and the airport, wrote Danette Bewley, CEO of the Tucson Airport Authority.
The city of Tucson alone is set to receive more than $12.7 million for housing, transportation and urban developments projects. This includes $1 million for a shared-use path on Mary Ann Cleveland Way, $1.8 million for Tucson police to update their portable radios and $5.2 million for different revitalization projects.
Nearly $1.7 million will go towards helping the Mt. Lemmon Fire District remodel and expand their fire station.
Revitalization in the Old Pueblo & new homelesss shelter in Amphi
The city will get $2.7 million for fixing up the El Pueblo Center “with a focus on children and youth, STEM and small business,” U.S. Rep. Raúl Grijalva wrote on Twitter.
The center, located on the South Side, includes public facilities for outdoor recreation, seniors, health clinics, a bilingual newspaper and Grijalva’s congressional offices. He and U.S. Rep. Ann Kirkpatrick requested $2.7 million for the project.
Mayor Regina Romero said the funding for the El Pueblo Center will help Tucson “serving youth, non-profits, and our aging parents and grandparents.”
Another $2.5 million will go toward revitalizing the Western Hills neighborhood — part of the area known as "the Vistas" — on the South Side and improve pedestrian and bike safety and help grow trees in the area, Tucson Mayor Regina Romero said in a press release put out by Kirkpatrick.
Romero said the federal investment is “seeding the future” of the neighborhood and will “protect Tucson families from urban heat and associated climate change heat stress.”
The mayor thanked Kirkpatrick for "supporting so many critical projects across Tucson" and for her "understanding of Tucson’s needs, particularly related to infrastructure and our most vulnerable populations."
The impact of these investments will be felt by Tucson families for years to come," Romero said.
The city of Tucson will also get $960,000 to build the Housing First Resource Center at Amphi. The city plans to convert an old fire station into a 24/7, pet friendly service center and shelter that can take 100 homeless people off the street at a time.
It will offer meals, access to social services and 25 rooms with electricity, heat and air conditioning as well as public bathrooms with showers, laundry machines and storage for personal belongings, according to Sinema’s request for funding.
“We know that 'Housing First' works,” Romero said in a press release. “In completing this project, will fill a gap in services offered to unsheltered individuals in the Amphi neighborhood. This is an area with a significant number of persons experiencing homelessness, and this Housing First Resource Center will help us better provide services to those who need them."
Pima County workforce development and education sees
Pima County will see $2.7 million invested into their One-Stop program, which offers resources to help residents find work through several career centers set up near Downtown Tucson and the South Side. The investment is to push forward plans for One-Stop Collaborative Center at Pima Community College.
Sharon Bronson, the chairwoman of the Board of Supervisors, had thanked Kirkpatrick as well as Kelly and Sinema for securing funds “critical” for local workforce development.
The Pima County School Superintendent’s Office will receive $250,000 for curricula, resources and professional development.
PCC is expected to get $1.2 million to expand their building and construction technology programs into commercial and industrial HVAC, or heating, ventilation and air conditioning, and to buy more equipment.
Chancellor Lee Lambert wrote in a press release that commercial HVAC “is one of the nation’s most-needed training programs“ and “an industry that is critically short of trained workers nationwide.”
“PCC will be one of very few colleges and technical schools that will be able to more fully train and prepare students to start careers in that industry,” Lambert said.
The program will help train students to work in HVAC, but it also helps “reskill” or “upskill technicians already employed,” Lambert said.
Kelly also requested and secured $3 million for the Pima Joint Technical Education District, which teaches career and technical education. It’s expected to help Pima JTED with plans for a high school dedicated to starting medical and health careers, Kathy Prather, the district’s superintendent, wrote in a press release.
Prather said the Pima JTED wants to “address the dire staffing shortages in healthcare while providing students with the means to obtain economic mobility that will improve our economy.”
Pima County will also receive $1.2 million to build a 2,100 foot-long storm drain to reduce flooding in Elvira, Sunnyside and Barrio Nopal on the South Side. The project would take flood water from near the Tucson International Airport and to an improved channel in the El Vado Wash, according to Grijalva’s request for the funds.
A pool of money for Tohono O'odham kids, Pascua Yaqui education & Indian services
One of the largest investments will be the $2.9 million that Grijalva requested to help open the Mission Manor Aquatic Complex. The pool at Mission Manor, located on the South Side, has been closed for 13 years because of poor condition, but Grijalva asked for a federal match to funding already committed by the city of Tucson and the Tohono O’odham Nation.
The Mission Manor Aquatic Complex is expected to cost more than $4 million, including $2.5 million for a new pool and a therapy pool and almost a million for a splash playground. The facility will be loaded with a new bathhouse and heating elements for year-round pool use, shade structures, benches, tables, a plaza and aquatic fitness equipment.
Grijalva wrote in his request for the funding that, with the renovated facility, “Tucson can correct inequity in accessibility to a resource that provides recreation, fitness and therapeutic benefits for the community.”
The Tohono O’odham Nation will also get more $1 million to build a turning lane outside of Baboquivari High School on BIA Route 19.
The Pascua Yaqui Tribe will receive $863,000 for academic programs and teacher development at their public schools. The tribe is also poised to get back Old Pascua after another piece of federal legislation passed last Monday.
The Tucson Indian Center, which offers a range of social and health services to Native Americans, can expect to receive almost $600,000 to upgrade their facilities and equipment.
Nonprofits get funding for afterschool programs
Several Southern Arizona nonprofits will also benefit from local investments by the federal spending package.
Nearly $1.1 million will go towards Higher Ground, a community nonprofit and resource center for youth and families, so they can hire staff to begin their Restart SMART program aimed supporting the emotional wellbeing of students in an afterschool setting, according to Grijalva’s description of the funding needs.
The Sunnyside Foundation, dedicated to supporting students at the Sunnyside Unified School District, is set to take in more than $400,000 to paint two murals at the El Pueblo Center and restore and historically register the existing ones there.
The funding will also help students from the Sunnyside District set up a community bike lending library for South Side neighborhoods along with services such as bike repair and safety clinics, according to Grijalva’s description.
Bennito L. Kelty is TucsonSentinel.com’s IDEA reporter, focusing on Inclusion, Diversity, Equity and Access stories, and a Report for America corps member supported by readers like you.