Rescue Cash for Every Town, County, and Town | Arkansas Business News

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The 14 largest cities in Arkansas receiving nearly $ 209 million in federal pandemic stimulus funds aren’t looking for a gift horse in the mouth – even one that comes with 150 pages of riding instructions.

But officials aren’t sure exactly how they’ll spend the windfall of the American Rescue Plan Act, which is bringing unprecedented financial infusion to every local government in the country. There are conditions attached – restrictions that the US Treasury Department spelled out last month in pound-length guidelines for metropolitan cities as well as the 75 counties of Arkansas, which are online for $ 586 million. distinct.

The second federal COVID-19 stimulus package, which Democrats passed through Congress and President Joe Biden signed in March, will provide Arkansas with a total of $ 2.6 billion, distributed in two batches by the novel Coronavirus State and Local Fiscal Recovery Fund.

“We always try to follow directions and take our time,” said Mayor Doug Sprouse of Springdale, who receives $ 21.4 million. “We want to make sure it’s spent in the most efficient way, in the way that lasts the longest for residents.

Although no official has said he made some plans for the money, Fort Smith city administrator Carl Geffken told Arkansas Business he suggested spending the $ 21.2 million of his city for water projects. “This will be the recommendation of the city administration,” he said.

One possibility is to help along a new 48 inch water transmission line project from Fort Smith Lake to Mountainburg to near Chaffee Crossing. The federal money would cover one-sixth of the $ 140 million cost of the remaining work.

Water, sewer and broadband infrastructure projects are high on the list of possibilities for many communities, in part because they are specifically approved at the end of recent guidance.

Plans are fluid and options must be worked out by city council and quorum tribunal members across the state.

Work and wait

County Judge Barry Hyde of Pulaski County, which will receive $ 76.1 million as the state’s most populous county, said his staff “were working on several ideas but awaiting further clarification and responses from the Treasure”.

Cynthia Anderson, chief of staff to Pine Bluff Mayor Shirley Washington, was in a similar situation. “We are still in the very early stages of applying the directives. Right now we don’t have a definite plan and nothing is set ”for the $ 16 million for Pine Bluff.

Little Rock will get $ 37.7 million through the program, which pays the money in two equal installments. Cities and counties received the first semester last month and will receive the other one year from May. All calculations are based on the local population.

Mayor Frank Scott Jr. has asked members of the Little Rock board of directors and department heads “for feedback to consider with the advice,” said director of communications Stephanie Jackson. “Mayor and Chief Executive Officer Bruce Moore will present a plan to the board” aligned with the goals of the program, she said. “Similar to CARES funding, directions should be fluid and are likely to change.” The city secured the first tranche of funding on May 17 – $ 18.86 million – and placed it in a special account.

Small Towns in Arkansas to share a designated $ 216.2 million fund for lawless local government units, a legislative term for towns and cities under 50,000 that fall outside metropolitan statistical areas . These governments are still waiting for the money, which will be distributed by the state, and advice on its use.

Nationally, the US bailout spends $ 19.5 billion for small towns, $ 45.6 billion for cities, $ 65 billion for counties and $ 195 billion for states.

“We know from a quick read of the rules that water projects, sewer projects, broadband, all of those things are going to be allowed,” Springdale’s Sprouse said in a telephone interview. “So we’ll look at that. We also hope that the list of eligible capital projects can grow a little longer. We’ll just have to go through this learning process and see what other cities in the country are doing. “

Sprouse said the usual path to federal money is to first make a proposal and seek approval. In this program, money comes first and governments must apply it to eligible projects.

“Even with the CARES Act funding, you had to have an application and then receive money for this particular project,” Sprouse said. “But here we get buckets full of money, and we have to make sure we spend it right.”

Water and sewer

Like everyone else, Conway Mayor Bart Castleberry is waiting for advice, but he’s excited about the possibility of tackling stormwater drainage, a lingering problem in the Faulkner County seat. ” This interests me a lot. We recently conducted a survey of 1,500 residents for Conway’s first strategic plan, and the two areas of greatest concern to people are drainage and city streets.

Cities will have about three years to spend the funding, Castleberry said. “We need to set up accounts and keep very good records on this. We expect the surveillance to be strict. “

City officials said they will coordinate with state and county officials to avoid duplication and manage grants wisely. They also expect some form of infrastructure plan from Biden, still in congressional limbo, to play a role. General infrastructure spending is not an eligible use of COVID recovery money.

Geffken said Fort Smith would not apply the money to sewer work associated with a 2015 consent decree with the US Department of Justice and Environmental Protection Agency, an executive order imposed after the city violated the Clean Water Act with untreated sewage discharges from 2004 to 2015.

Fort Smith has sought to change the executive order, even as it spent hundreds of millions of dollars on sewers and raised tariffs 167% between 2015 and 2017.

“We still have the federal wastewater consent decree and we are still asking for an amendment,” Geffken said. While this issue is open, he said, “It is still important to provide clean, fresh drinking water. That is why we will recommend improving and maintaining our hydraulic infrastructure.

Eligible uses include spending on public health, remedying the negative economic effects of the pandemic, and offering bonuses to essential workers – something Washington County is exploring, according to County Judge Joseph Wood. Aid can be applied retroactively to January 2020.

“We are looking at water, sewage and broadband, but also looking to help law enforcement, prison workers and the coroner, building workers and ground and maintenance crews,” said Wood. “The law allows that [enhancing pay for essential workers], but all this must be verified by the justices of the peace.

Wood will work with municipalities in the county, including Fayetteville, to ensure that all entities get their money’s worth.

Fayetteville City CFO Paul Becker watched webinars and read Q&A, he said. “The rules seem more restrictive than expected,” he said. “Of course broadband, water and sewage is pretty much available, so we’re going to look at some areas of infrastructure. “

At $ 46.5 million, Washington County follows only Pulaski County and Benton County on the county’s allotment list. Benton County is online for $ 54.2 million. “With the counties receiving so much money, there will definitely be an element of coordination,” Becker said.

“We have not yet set specific priorities and are patient with the whole process,” said Brenda Peacock, comptroller of Benton County, adding the topic was on the finance meeting’s agenda. county this week.


Top 12 counties for US bailout funds

1

Pulaski

$ 76.1 million

2

Curved on

$ 54.2 million

3

Washington

$ 46.5 million

4

Sebastian

$ 24.8 million

5

Faulkner

$ 24.5 million

6

Saline

$ 23.8 million

7

Craighead

$ 21.4 million

8

Garland

$ 19.3 million

9

White

$ 15.3 million

ten

Lonoke

$ 14.2 million

11

Jefferson

$ 13.0 million

12

Crawford

$ 12.3 million

Source: Arkansas County Association


American Rescue Plan Act Aid to Metropolitan Cities in Arkansas

1

Small stone

$ 37.7 million

2

Springdale

$ 21.4 million

3

Fort Smith

$ 21.2 million

4

Fayetteville

$ 17.9 million

5

North Little Rock

$ 16.8 million

6

Pine bluff

$ 16.0 million

7

Jonesboro

$ 15.6 million

8

Conway

$ 12.2 million

9

Rogers

$ 11.7 million

ten

Hot Springs

$ 11.4 million

11

Texarkana

$ 7.9 million

12

Bentonville

$ 6.9 million

13

West Memphis

$ 6.6 million

14

Jacksonville

$ 5.4 million

Source: National League of Cities

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