Topeka mayor, council to consider setting aside at least $35M in ARPA money for infrastructure work

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Topeka's mayor and city council on Feb. 1 will consider earmarking at least $35 million in American Rescue Plan Act money the city has been awarded for purposes that include carrying out infrastructure projects in an effort to prevent water main breaks, such as the one shown in this 2017 Capital-Journal file photo.
Topeka's mayor and city council on Feb. 1 will consider earmarking at least $35 million in American Rescue Plan Act money the city has been awarded for purposes that include carrying out infrastructure projects in an effort to prevent water main breaks, such as the one shown in this 2017 Capital-Journal file photo.

Topeka's mayor and city council will consider setting aside at least $35 million to be used to finance infrastructure projects out of the federal COVID relief funding the city will receive.

That body on Feb. 1 will take up a proposal that would take that step while directing the council's policy and finance committee to create a process to distribute the rest of the $45,676,831 the city has been awarded through the American Rescue Plan Act.

"Once developed, this process will be brought back to the full body for its consideration," says the proposed resolution, which is sponsored by interim city manager Bill Cochran.

The city published the measure Friday when it made the preliminary agenda for the Feb. 1 meeting available on its website.

More: 'This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity': Topeka will get $45.6M. How will it spend it?

The mayor and council directed the city staff to prepare a resolution taking the steps being considered during a Jan. 15 work session focusing on how the city will use its ARPA funding, according to a document in the agenda packet for the Feb. 1 meeting.

The city is required to file reports with the federal government on how ARPA funds are spent, said Gretchen Spiker, the city's communications director, on Friday.

"One of those ways is a calculation provided by the Department of the Treasury on what percentage can be considered lost revenue and spent for governmental services, rather than on specific utility projects for instance," she said. "Under the calculation, the City of Topeka would have approximately $55 million in lost revenue, which is more than has been received from ARPA."

Designating the funds as lost revenue simplifies the reporting process for the city, Spiker said.

"It will have no effect on the city’s credit score," she said. "It is simply necessary in order to comply with various federal guidelines for the use of ARPA money."

More: COVID money to be used for work that includes replacing terminal at Philip Billard Municipal Airport

The proposal on the council's Feb. 1 agenda notes that the city's roughly $55 million in lost revenue funds may be spent on any governmental service.

The resolution calls for the city, for reporting services, to designate the ARPA funds it receives as "replacement for lost revenue" while directing that a minimum of $35 million of those funds be used to pay cash to finance infrastructure projects.

"Additional money may be designated to this purpose at a later date," the measure says.

It would not earmark the remaining ARPA funds for any particular use at this time, instead directing the policy and finance committee to create a process for allocating those.

Councilman and Deputy Mayor Spencer Duncan suggested at the Jan. 15 work session that the council's policy and finance committee be given that task, which he acknowledged could be formidable.

That committee's members are Duncan and councilwomen Hannah Naeger and Christina Valdivia-Alcala.

This article originally appeared on Topeka Capital-Journal: City of Topeka considers using ARPA money for infrastructure projects

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