Ken de la Bastide: Ken de la Bastide column: Public input on ARP spending is crucial

·3 min read

Sep. 4—Over the next few years, governmental units in Madison County and Anderson will have close to $50 million in American Rescue Plan funds to utilize.

That doesn't include the funding going to other cities, towns and the $1.9 billion allocated for the local school systems.

The federal government has developed stringent guidelines for how those funds can be used. Perhaps they're too restrictive.

Unfortunately, using a portion of the county's funding for a new jail will not be allowed. If it was, the county could not only construct a new jail, but it could build one that could include a treatment facility for those addicted to drugs or suffering from mental illness.

Madison County will receive $25.2 million; Anderson is getting $23.1 million. No decision locally has been made on how those funds will be spent.

The Anderson City Council and the Madison County Council want committees formed with the administration of Mayor Thomas Broderick Jr. and with the Madison County Board of Commissioners to formulate a plan on spending.

As of this week, no committees have been formed as local units of government complete work on their 2022 budgets over the next two months.

The formation of committees is a commendable goal. No one branch of government should decide how that funding will be allocated.

But the decisions shouldn't be left up to elected officials alone.

Any committees created should include local residents, members of the business community and not for profit agencies.

The American Rescue Plan is designed to improve infrastructure across the country and should be a priority at the local level.

Water and sewer systems are aging in local communities; the county's bridges need work; and most people will agree streets and roads need to be upgraded.

Broderick is considering using a portion of his city's funding to provide COVID-19 hazard pay for city employees.

There should be little doubt that members of the city police and fire departments should be considered for hazard pay.

During the pandemic, which continues to surge, police officers and firefighters were placed in harm's way on a daily basis.

Madison County and Elwood used their COVID funding to provide hazard pay, as did many other Indiana communities.

Anderson will probably use a portion of the American Rescue Plan funding to relocate a water line that runs through Athletic Park. Broderick still has plans for up to $2 million in improvements to the park that will enhance the quality of life for local residents.

Currently there are no parks owned and maintained by Madison County.

If allowed, a portion of the county's share could be used to create several parks in the northern, central and southern parts of Madison County.

Locations along the White River, Pipe Creek and Falls Creek would be ideal.

The federal funding is a windfall for local units of government throughout the country.

Since the American Rescue Plan is basically funded by public tax dollars, every effort should be made to get community input on how those funds are spent.

Senior Reporter Ken de la Bastide's column publishes Saturdays. Contact him at ken.delabastide@heraldbulletin.com or 765-640-4863.

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