To the editor:
Like hundreds of other Alexandria residents, we have recently spent considerable time digging out from flooding along with anxious days when repeated flood warnings occurred. Our frustration has been magnified by the relatively low priority that Alexandria’s chronic flooding problems received when City Council voted to allocate less than one-fifth of the $30 million in American Rescue Plan Act funds received from the federal government to this issue.
This was an inexplicable missed opportunity to accelerate the effort to fix Alexandria’s inadequate stormwater infrastructure which city leaders have, until recently, ignored for decades. And it is a problem that they recently doubled our stormwater fee to address.
In the aftermath of last week’s flooding, Mayor Justin Wilson claimed that the ARPA funds could not be spent on major large-capacity flood control projects because they could not be finished by the end of 2024 as required in the legislation. This is false. Dana Wedeles, assistant to the City Manager, told City Council on July 6 that “for construction projects that have been obligated, the construction can continue until 2026.”
According to DrainALX, this means that funding could have gone toward the design and implementation of top capacity projects on the 10-year CIP, in addition to the smaller spot projects and special projects like Hooff’s Run. Additional funding would have helped accelerate the timeline and offset costs to add additional projects.
On Aug. 10, The Washington Post expressed surprise that Alexandria had decided to spend $3 million from ARPA funds on what is considered a dubious guaranteed income pilot. If the pilot is “successful,” then what?
Wilson, in the aftermath of the vote said, “I think this is an opportunity for the city to make some transformational investments as well as to do some experimentation, which I think I’m particularly excited about. … Some of this stuff is not going to work, and that’s ok, that’s really ok.” Really?
I hope that more sober minds prevail when City Council votes on the second $30 million tranche of ARPA money.
-Tom Slayton, Alexandria