Sep. 10—Image that you won the Hoosier Lottery and it suddenly makes you a millionaire.
Even before such a stroke of luck, most people and families would have discussed how to spend a sudden influx of money.
Retirement, new vehicles, vacation trips, maybe a new home and saving for a child's or grandchild's education might be at the top of the list.
In many respects, that is exactly what happened for the cities and towns in Madison County.
They didn't win the lottery, but local governmental units have received close to $100 million in American Rescue Plan funds.
Madison County received $25.1 million and Anderson was granted $23.1 million. Elwood, Alexandria and the other communities all got a piece of the ARP funding.
The amount of ARP funds doesn't include any interest earned on the investment of the funds, and with the interest rate increasing, investment returns are rising.
Anderson has received about $40,000 in interest, which will be used in conjunction with the ARP spending plan.
Other taxing units, including Madison County, are having the interest deposited in their general fund accounts, which allows interest income to be spent on other functions.
Since last December, how to spend the $23.1 million has been a topic of discussion in Anderson.
Mayor Thomas Broderick Jr. and Anderson City Council conducted several public meetings to get input from the community on how to distribute the funds.
To date, there has been no public input on how Madison County will spend its $25.1 million and, to my knowledge, no meetings have taken place in any other city or town in the county.
Every local government entity has pressing needs. Infrastructure needs upgrading, affordable housing is in demand, nonprofits and small businesses need a boost and homelessness is growing across the county.
It would be interesting to see how local residents would react if local governmental entities decided to share the cost for several projects that could benefit the county.
Could Madison County, Elwood, Alexandria, Pendleton and Anderson each allocate some of their ARP funding for a countywide park system?
Improved parks throughout the county would benefit all residents and attract people to the area. By combining their efforts, no single entity would have to shoulder the entire costs.
In my many visits to Michigan over the years, it is impressive that many of the counties have one or more public parks. Also, numerous biking and hiking trails in the Wolverine state connect parks and communities.
It's unlikely local elected officials will ever see another windfall of cash. How these funds are spent over the next few years will have long-term effects on all of Madison County.
Public input at all levels is necessary, and transparency in the distribution process is essential.
We don't want to look back in a decade and lament that a golden opportunity slipped through our collective fingers.
Senior Reporter Ken de la Bastide's column publishes Saturdays. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org or 765-640-4863.