See which Grand Rapids-area projects got $17.3M in congressional earmarks

GRAND RAPIDS, MI — Eleven Grand Rapids projects and organizations received $17.3 million in federal funds through congressional earmarks included in a $1.7 trillion spending bill signed by President Joe Biden last month.

The projects include $5 million for a new air traffic control tower at Gerald R. Ford International Airport, $3 million for Mary Free Bed’s proposed 24-bed children’s rehabilitation hospital, and $2.3 million to expand childcare services at United Methodist Community House.

The list of projects and organizations that received awards was provided by US Sen. Debbie Stabenow, D-Lansing, and former US Rep. Peter Meijer, R-Grand Rapids Township.

Here’s a look at the projects and organizations that received funding:

Gerald R. Ford International Airport Air Traffic Control Tower Replacement: A total of $5 million was reserved to design a new air traffic control tower at the airport. Ford airport’s current tower was built in 1963, and its height of 100 feet has limited development opportunities at the airport because the tower must have an unobstructed view of the runway, said Casey Reis, planning and engineering director at the airport.

The estimated cost of a new, 200-foot tower is between $60 million and $70 million. The tower is owned and operated by the Federal Aviation Administration.

Mary Free Bed pediatric rehabilitation hospital: A proposed 24-bed children’s rehabilitation hospital jointly operated by Mary Free Bed Rehabilitation Hospital and Corewell Health received $3 million.

The project was publicly announced in July after it received $10 million in a state budget signed by Gov. Gretchen Whitmer. Hospital officials, who this summer said they would be raising funds to make the project a reality, said the total project is expected to cost $60 million.

“This will be the first children’s rehabilitation hospital in Michigan, ninth in the nation and one of only three located between the east and west coasts,” according to a statement from Mary Free Bed spokesperson Chris Mills. “In other words, Kent County children and their families will be exceptionally well served.”

He said the goal is to raise $30 million in public funds and $30 million in private funds for the project. To date, private pledges total $7 million.

United Methodist Community House: The Grand Rapids-based nonprofit, which provides services for children, the elderly and families, received $2.3 million to expand childcare services.

City of Grand Rapids: The city’s water resource recovery facility groundwater treatment project received $1.7 million. The project will install a treatment system to clean-up groundwater around the city’s wastewater treatment plant, 1300 Market Ave. SW, that was contaminated by PFAS, said Mike Grenier, environmental services manager for the city. The city wants to ensure the contaminated groundwater does not seep into the nearby Grand River, he said.

Davenport University: The university received $1.3 million for its Casa Latina dual language program.

Grand Rapids-Kent County Convention/Arena Authority: The public authority that oversees Van Andel Arena, DeVos Place and DeVos Performance Hall received $1 million for the Lyon Square urban park renovation and improvement.

Grand Valley State University: The university was awarded $1 million for a student development program.

Ferris State University: A learning center at the university will be constructed using a $1 million award.

Davenport University: A teacher training program received $760,000.

Aquinas College: The college received $185,000 for a teaching excellence center.

City of Grand Rapids: An effort to enhance flood protection along the Grand River at the Sixth Street Bridge and Canal Park was awarded $100,000. The improvements are designed to “mitigate flood risks, expand public access to the river, and enhance the city’s economic vitality,” according to materials provided by Stabenow’s office.

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