The Danville Town Council voted unanimously last week to approve a resolution determining how to commit federal funds awarded to the town, intended to help recoup economic blows sustained during the pandemic.
Councilmembers warmly received a staff report from Town Manager Joe Calabrigo on Oct. 5 with recommendations on how to best use more than $5 million in funding granted to the town under the American Rescue Plan Act.
The federal funding was hailed as a "golden" and "once in a lifetime" opportunity, with discussions emphasizing the importance of using it wisely. The council agreed that staff had done so, and praised them for their efforts.
In particular, councilmembers hoped that the funds committed to measures aimed at public health and safety would send the right message to the community, in the wake of some national scrutiny aimed at the community amid the trial of Danville police Officer Andrew Hall.
Hall, a former county sheriff's deputy with the Danville Police Department, is in the middle of standing trial for manslaughter in the 2018 shooting death of Laudemer Arboleda, for which he has pleaded not guilty on the grounds of self defense.
After returning to duty following Arboleda's death, and before being charged by county prosecutors in that case, Hall fatally shot Tyrell Wilson, a homeless man who was holding a knife when he approached the officer near a Danville overpass in March. The district attorney's investigation into Wilson's death is ongoing. Hall was transferred off of the Danville assignment and back to the sheriff's department following the the incident.
"I'm kind of disenchanted that, you know, folks question whether we were insensitive towards what happened with Tyrell Wilson, insensitive towards the area of mental illness, and noting as we emerge from the pandemic that we don't know what all that's about," Councilmember Dave Fong said. I also believe there are some that don't believe that we're committed to the area of promoting health and safety. "
The resolution includes the appropriation of funds, with $900,000 being designated for local nonprofits and public services, and reservation of funds for three designated areas. These consist of $250,000 for mental health services, $500,000 for senior services, and $100,000 for homeless services. In addition, more than $3 million is set to be spent on infrastructure improvements to the town, focused on areas such as cybersecurity, water quality, and improvements to downtown.
Funds that are appropriated are available to the awardees with no further action by the council. The council will take further actions in the future to specify how to use the total of $850,000 in reserved funds in future meetings.
Although the exact use of the reserved funds has not yet been determined, Councilmember Robert Storer suggested the $100,000 designated for homeless services be appropriated in honor of Wilson.
"This money is rightfully earmarked, to help a worthy cause, and by contributing it on behalf of Tyrell Wilson sends a strong message to the community that we care, not only about the problem and the extremely unfortunate circumstances surrounding the incident, but I feel like it's the right thing to do," Storer said.
Storer noted that while this wouldn't change the outcome of Wilson's death, it could send the right message to the community in the wake of the event.
One of the organizations for which funds are appropriated under the resolution is Discovery Counseling Center, who are set to receive $100,000 to support their work on community health and wellness. Kathy Chiverton, the center's executive director, was one of several voices to applaud Storer's suggestion, emphasizing that Wilson's death highlights the need for mental health services, in addition to homeless services.
"I think as Councilmember Fong points out, this is a great opportunity to show and demonstrate the deep caring this town has for those who are very vulnerable to mental health issues as well as homelessness," Chiverton said.
Vice Mayor Newell Arnerich said he agreed that these funds should be used as a way of highlighting the town's commitment to supporting vulnerable populations -- as Hall's trial and the details of Wilson's death make national headlines.
"He's not the only homeless person who has passed away in our town, but was certainly the most recent under very difficult circumstances," Arnerich said.
Funds appropriated to community organizations are expected to be dispersed by the end of the month. Those reserved for designated purposes will be discussed in future town council meetings.
Full video of the Oct. 5 meeting is available here.
Correction: Andrew Hall is no longer on assignment in Danville, following the March 11 shooting of Tyrell Wilson. He was transferred back to the county sheriff's department.