SAGINAW, MI — A federal government omnibus spending bill could mean a boost for local bus riders.
The Saginaw Transit Authority Regional Services (STARS) bus system was one of several regional initiatives included in a $1.7 trillion spending package approved by the U.S. Senate Thursday, Dec. 22.
Next up: the U.S. House of Representatives will vote on the proposal, likely on Friday, Dec. 23, said U.S. Rep. Dan Kildee. The Flint Township Democrat said he anticipated the Democrat-majority House would approve the legislation, followed thereafter by President Joe Biden.
If passed in its current form, the proposal would include 15 mid-Michigan-based community projects Kildee included in the omnibus package.
The $4 million designated for STARS in the federal bill would add 10 new buses to the transit system’s aging fleet of 43 vehicles, Kildee said.
“The reason this one was so important is that transportation is access; to health care, to a job; to family,” he said. “It’s not just about transportation. It’s about what that transportation means to the people who use it. It connects them to the things they need to improve their lives.”
Kildee’s support of STARS initiatives is not new. In spending proposals in recent years, the Congressman has sought funding for the transit organization’s projects, including the agency’s potential move to the historic Potter Street Station.
“We’re excited that STARS has a vision to continue to improve and grow its services,” he said.
Glenn Steffens, executive director of STARS, said he was grateful for the Congressman’s support.
“If passed into law, this funding would represent a huge step toward fleet viability and the reliability that Saginaw deserves,” Steffens said.
The STARS item was among the priciest of the 15 items provided by Kildee, who represents a Congressional district that spans mid-Michigan. The proposal also includes $3 million for downtown Saginaw infrastructure investments.
That $3 million would land in a neighborhood where elected officials and business leaders hope to secure a $100 million health care industry-related project to add to downtown Saginaw’s existing medical corridor. Advocates have said the project could lead to other organizations and industries locating to the neighborhood, creating more need for improved infrastructure.
“I’m enthusiastic about a lot of things with this proposal, including the location,” Kildee said of the district, which sits alongside the Saginaw River. “It’s right there on the river. Many communities across the country have found that utilizing riverfront space for development dramatically increases the likelihood of success.”
The bill also would send $2.4 million to the Saginaw County Land Bank Authority.
Those funds would complete the demolition of a former Chevrolet automotive plant in Saginaw and raze the defunct Welcome Inn Motel in Buena Vista Township. The money also would tear down about 40 structures surrounding Nexteer Automotive in Buena Vista and Covenant HealthCare in Saginaw as well as fund the planting of new trees in those spaces.
“Now, instead of a blighted, empty building, we can have a clean and green space, ready for development,” Kildee said.
The Congressman said he also was excited about the largest item on the list: $4.3 million boost to mid-Michigan law enforcement agencies.
“We’re going to get resources to a significant number of local police agencies, to give them the equipment and upgrades that they need to do their jobs better,” Kildee said. “We need to do more to help them, and I’m pretty enthusiastic about this one.”
The following is a complete list and summary of community projects Kildee said he included in the omnibus proposal:
$4.3 million: Funding for mid-Michigan law enforcement agencies.
$4 million: Support for STARS to purchase 10 new buses for its fleet.
$4 million: Funding for the Genesee County Land Bank Authority to demolish up to 240 dangerous and vacant residential and commercial structures.
$3 million: Investment for infrastructure improvements in downtown Saginaw.
$3 million: Funding for YMCA of Flint, Dow Bay Area Family YMCA, and the YMCA of Saginaw to build a new community center in Flint, renovate an existing center in Saginaw, and construct an outdoor center in Bay City.
$2.8 million: Investment for home repair projects overseen by the Habitat for Humanity hubs in Bay, Genesee and Saginaw counties.
$2.4 million: Support for the Saginaw County Land Bank Authority to demolish vacant properties.
$2 million: Funding for Mott Community College to expand language and literacy services programs for Genesee County children.
$2 million: Investment for the Bay County Health Department to build a facility that centralizes the agency’s services, including primary care and substance use treatment resources.
$2 million: Funding both to cover maintenance costs at 455 mobile food distribution centers overseen by the Food Bank of Eastern Michigan as well as grow the food storage capacity at Saginaw Community Action Committee in Saginaw.
$1.9 million: Support for the Flint Institute of Science and History to expand after-school services across Genesee County.
$1 million: Investment for the Central Michigan University Research Corp. as well as the Michigan Small Business Development Center to add resources for small businesses, including creation of an entrepreneurial training program in Saginaw.
$1 million: Support for Hamilton Community Health Network, Inc. to create a state-of-the-art medical facility on the east side of Flint.
$1 million: Funding for Flint-based New Paths, Inc. to upgrade its treatment center and recovery housing facility.
$750,000: Support for the Genesee County Road Commission to improve roads in Flint, Fenton as well as Grand Blanc.