Town halls set for public input on ARP money for county

Published 5:19 pm Wednesday, February 2, 2022

BY IVAN SANDERS
STAR STAFF
Town Hall dates have been set for county residents to provide input into how $11 million in American Rescue Plan money will be spent in Carter County.
Those dates were set on Tuesday during the Carter County Health and Welfare Committee’s February meeting. Town halls will be held at 6 p.m. February 28, March 1 during the regular March Health and Welfare Committee meeting, and March 28.
“I ask you to talk to the constituents in the county to come out to the meetings because we need to have as much input from the citizens as possible,” said Chairman Dr. Robert Acuff. “We don’t want to get down the road two to three years from now and have people pointing fingers at this committee.”
The Health and Welfare Committee has been charged by the full county commission to develop a system to prioritize which projects deserve to receive the money being provided as part of the ARP.
Acuff presented a clearer understanding of how recipients of the funds could use the money including:
  • Replacing lost public sector revenue, using this funding to provide government services up to the amount of revenue lost due to the pandemic.
  • Responding to the far-reaching public health and negative economic impacts of the pandemic by supporting the health of communities, and helping households, small businesses, impacted industries, nonprofits, and the public sector recover from economic impacts.
  • Providing premium pay for essential workers, offering additional support to those who have and will bear the greatest health risks because of their service in critical sectors.
  • Investing in water, sewer, and broadband infrastructure, making necessary investments to improve access to clean drinking water, to support vital wastewater and stormwater infrastructure, and to expand affordable access to broadband internet.
The Coronavirus State and Local Fiscal Recovery Funds provide substantial flexibility for each jurisdiction to meet local needs within these four separate eligible use categories.
Acuff told the committee on Tuesday that “we need to be intentional with this.”
“My goal here is that we use the almost $11 million to help the most people we can,” said Acuff. “We need to think about how we spend our money.
“And I may make a lot of county employees upset but although the mayor deemed everyone essential employees, we are going to spend this money to help the most people we can.”
Commissioner Travis Hill expressed concern about areas of the county without clean drinking water and suggested using funds to address those needs.
No projects have been submitted, but Acuff said any project needed to be fully developed including project plan and cost.
“I do not believe it is our role to develop, write, or seek engineering on behalf of a district, utilitye or other entity that may seek funding from ARP,” Acuff said in an earlier email sent to the committee.
The committee has of yet determined a scoring system or a way that the projects would be prioritized.

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