MURRAY- Although Murray Mayor Bob Rogers and Calloway County Executive Judge Kenny Imes have not yet been told how much local governments will receive from the recently passed American Rescue Plan Act, they are beginning to have tentative discussions about what some of their major spending priorities might be once the funds are disbursed.
The legislation, often referred to as ARP and signed by President Joe Biden on March 11, includes $350 billion in assistance to replenish tax revenues that have shrunk during the pandemic so state and local governments can pay employees and support basic services. , according to USA Today. Kentucky is expected to receive about $4.077 billion, according to the newspaper.
Rogers said he was not told by either the federal government or the Kentucky Department of Local Government how much Murray might receive from the package. He said he had heard unofficial estimates from various sources, but they varied wildly – up to 60% difference – so he currently has no idea of the final figure.
“We’re waiting to hear the official word so we can make the plans,” Rogers said. “We are waiting for the Ministry of Local Government to tell us what our amount will be. … The city hasn’t been told (what to expect) so I don’t know, but as to how we would use it, we were given a tentative list of ways it could be used, although I’m not sure that’s official either. But my plan is that once we get the amount, we’ll look at our options, and I’ll contact the city council and we’ll try to decide how best to use this money for our town.
Rogers said city officials will continue to review the entirety of the rest of the ARP to better understand what else it includes and what the city’s greatest needs will be. He also mentioned that the local economy could benefit from the money included for small business loans and for restaurants. He said he understood that the package contained money for infrastructure, particularly for water and sewage improvements, and that local governments could use their share of the funds they received to replace lost income.
“Of course we have a significant revenue loss due to lost payroll and other areas where we’ve missed out due to COVID, so that’s an option for some of them,” Rogers said. . “So we’re going to look at the total amount and then do our best to help people and do things that you might not be able to do in an ordinary year.”
City Administrator Jim Osborne said that if you count the loss of utility money that was not collected during the state’s moratorium on such bills at the start of the pandemic, the city has lost approximately $750,000 in revenue due to COVID-19.
Imes said he didn’t believe the money would go through the Department of Local Government and he felt local governments would receive direct deposits similar to the payments individuals currently receive from the IRS. Like Rogers, Imes said he was also not given a number to expect, although Congressman James Comer said during a virtual Murray-Calloway County Chamber of Commerce event the week last he had heard that the county could receive about $7.5 million.
“I still don’t have a letter or official document from anyone saying this, but I guess (the money) is there, and other judges start talking about it and everyone knocks on the door. now wanting a piece and telling you how to use it,” Imes said. “We’re not going to rush in particular (trying to figure out how to spend it). I still want roads, I want internet, I I have an animal shelter that I would like to build one day, (upgrades to) the courthouse.You could spend that money 15 times and still not get everything you want, so we’re going to be methodical about it.
Imes said when the county receives one of the stimulus funds, he expects it to put it into an account while he and the magistrates decide what might be the best use for it. He said one opportunity to leverage these funds for maximum benefit to residents would be to set aside a portion in case the county receives matching grants for various community needs.
“You have to try to do everything you can and hopefully we can leverage a lot of that money in some areas,” Imes said. “Let’s say we were going to do something with the courthouse and it was going to cost a million dollars. Then we would like to see if we could put in $500,000 and get a grant from some federal agency or private organization to match us so we could get a million dollars worth of work for spending half a million dollars . Same thing with the animal shelter. The range (which has been quoted) is $1-2 million to have a modern animal shelter. Whatever that cost, could we take half of it and get the public to support the other half?
Imes said the courthouse needed many improvements, including upgrades to its electrical system and a new HVAC system. He said the county had searched for a long time if there were any grants for retrofitting historic properties, but so far had been unable to find one. If renovations are carried out, Imes said he would like to adopt a comprehensive plan first.
“It’s one of the top priorities, but it’s not one the public will easily accept,” Imes said. “People want the courthouse to be there and basically look like it does now. If you start adding to it or taking away from it, how are you going to go there and empty it and keep the historical perspective of it and have a modern and functional system? My goal has always been to make it more user-friendly. Right now you either have to enter through the ramp or a bunch of stairs and then take the elevator up to the county clerk’s office. Since the Clerk’s Office and the PVA are the county government agencies most commonly used by the public, it would be ideal to place them somewhere on the ground floor, which you’re not going to do in this building . … But you want to get it right the first time; I would hesitate to do it piecemeal.
Imes noted that it would be possible for the county to spend $7 million just on necessary road improvements. Another of its primary goals has been to provide reliable, high-speed Internet access to county residents who are currently underserved. He said the current estimate to run broadband lines to every home in Calloway County that needs them is around $16 million to $17 million. Additionally, the county jail currently has many unmet needs, he said.
“You have five different perspectives of taking some of that funding without (spending it all on one project),” Imes said. “The roads, the jail, the internet, the animal shelter and the courthouse. There are five projects that desperately need attention, but how do we maximize our use of $7 million? That sounds like a lot of money – and it is, don’t get me wrong – but how do you maximize the use of it? So we’re not going to rush, and I guess we’ll have public meetings and… get a spreadsheet and start writing down what people say they want and need and would make life better here and go from there and start building a complete (plan).