Gilbert Town Council accepted an allocation of $7.73 million from the U.S. Department of Treasury on Feb. 16 for emergency rental assistance and agreed to contracts with two providers to distribute the funds.

Nonprofit AZCEND will distribute $6.53 million, and nonprofit Save the Family will give out the remaining $1.2 million after a 6-1 vote on the items.

Council Member Aimee Yentes was the sole dissenting vote, explaining she supported helping those in need of relief but questioned the scope of the grant. Yentes said she wondered whether town residents had a demonstrated need for more than $7 million in relief, saying it was an example of federal overspending.

Community Resources Supervisor Melanie Dykstra said unused money could be returned and that families who qualify for the assistance have to recertify their need every three months.

In other actions:

  • Mayor Brigette Peterson, responding to 14 public commenters who live along the Western Canal and could have their properties claimed under eminent domain laws, said Town Council will meet with them as promised at the end of February or early March. The town has told 24 property owners on Hemlock and Commerce avenues and Honeysuckle Lane that it intends to purchase parts of their back yards under eminent domain laws to repair the underlying sewer. The town has an easement on each of the properties. Homeowners told council they are willing to give the town complete access to their yards to repair the sewer while retaining their yards.

  • Council approved change orders to work scheduled to the town’s Municipal I building, which houses some staff offices and council chambers, by a 5-2 vote with Yentes and Laurin Hendrix dissenting. Yentes questioned whether all the plans were necessary when the project was going over budget in a time of many municipal needs. The total cost of the changes was more than $186,000.

  • Council unanimously approved land code changes to adopt marijuana-related terminology in accordance with Proposition 207, the Smart and Safe Act, which passed in November and legalized recreational marijuana in the state.

  • Council unanimously approved a change in town code to set a process for suspension and debarment of a contractor as well as provide an administrative appeal process to allow a contractor to appeal a suspension or debarment decision. Council Member Kathy Tilque offered amendments to assure contractors were not penalized on the basis of rumors, and the amendments were included in the measure when it passed.