Denver to spend $46 million in federal money on hiring, equipment, upgrades

Departments across Denver’s government will be able to hire for positions left vacant during the pandemic, upgrade buildings and buy equipment after the city council unanimously agreed Monday to spread around $46.2 million in federal aid.

That’s about 15% of the $308 million that Denver is getting from the federal American Rescue Plan, which was signed into law by President Joe Biden in March. The expenses approved by the council Monday represent the first chunk of that cash to be allocated.

Denver’s first priority is to inject money into city departments that had to cut budgets during the pandemic, either by leaving positions unfilled, postponing projects, deferring maintenance or cutting services, Department of Finance spokeswoman Kiki Turner said.

Some of the larger expenses approved by the council include:

  • $3.9 million to Parks and Recreation to reopen recreation centers; upgrade heating, ventilation and air conditioning; hire six and equip six employees to increase park maintenance.
  • $1.6 million to the Denver Public Library to restore 42 frozen positions to support reopening branches and programming, restore the library’s collections budget.
  • $1.79 million to the Department of Transportation and Infrastructure for more street maintenance and fleet repairs; administration costs.
  • $6.1 million for the Denver Fire Department to hire new technicians, fill vacant jobs and staff up the department’s patio expansion and licensing program.
  • $2.4 million for the Denver Police Department to hire 16 civilian positions including staff to repair and maintain police vehicles and equipment and forensic investigators, cover overtime costs and train 40 cadets.
  • $1.3 million for the Denver Sheriff’s Department to hire 11 civilian positions, cover overtime costs.

More of the federal aid could be used to pay for the city’s ongoing pandemic response and to offer grants to struggling local businesses, Turner said. Finance officials will make more spending recommendations in the coming weeks.

Also on Monday, the council also agreed to send $1 million more to the popular STAR Program, which pairs mental health experts and emergency technicians with social services on certain 911 calls. The group also reelected council members Stacie Gilmore and Jamie Torres as the group’s president and president pro tem, respectively.

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