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$98M in COVID relief coming to cities, schools in Tippecanoe Co. What’s the plan?
How will the local share of a $1.9 trillion American Recovery Plan going to be spent in Lafayette, WL, Tippecanoe County and at schools? That’s still being worked out. But here's a start
Monday night, Lafayette and West Lafayette city councils will line up holding funds, waiting for their shares of the $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan Act package signed into law in March.
How it’s going to be spent? That’s still being worked out.
The money, part of the package that sent direct stimulus payments to U.S. citizens, was intended to blunt some of the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic.
For cities, counties and schools, the money comes with some fairly broad confines aimed at infrastructure project, hazard pay for essential workers, replacing revenue lost due to the pandemic and helping students make up ground lost during such a weird year of distance learning, according to rules set by the Treasury department.
More than $98 million will be in play for Lafayette, West Lafayette, Tippecanoe County and the three school districts in the county.
So, what’s the plan for that cash around here?
Here’s what we know, so far.
West Lafayette: $11.1 million
West Lafayette Mayor John Dennis said the plan is to put as much as $10 million into the city’s wastewater treatment plant. He said that work was being arranged in stages, as it was, with hopes of tapping into state revolving funds to get it done.
“The infusion of money now will let us get things done faster and, more or less, in one fell swoop,” Dennis said.
The plant, just off North River Road and along the Wabash River, serves the city and Purdue’s West Lafayette campus. The city has seen a residential building boom in recent years near campus, and the university’s Discovery Park District – a collection of homes, research facilities and industry in what Purdue touts a live-work-play project worth more than $1 billion of investment – continues to develop.
Purdue enrollment – with a record 10,000 freshman, up by more than 1,000 from the previous record last year, expected for the fall 2021 semester – continues to grow. Enrollment is up 19 percent since 2013, with likely another record coming for the 2021-22.
“We’re growing out of our shoes, so we need a new pair of shoes – so to speak,” Dennis said. “Putting $10 million into that will let us stay ahead of the curve, not just for the growth we’re seeing now. The future, it always is followed by the dot-dot-dot – to be continued.”
As for the other $1.1 million, Dennis said the city is waiting for finalized rules about how the money may be used before deciding.
Tippecanoe County: $37.9 million
Tippecanoe County Commissioner Dave Byers said the county is still looking at what projects are eligible before locking into a plan. He said his first thought was to pay off bonds for the recently renovated Tippecanoe County 4-H Fairgrounds – a $22 million project, with $18 million in bonds, just wrapping now – or for the future renovations at the Tippecanoe County Community Corrections facility.
“But we can’t use it for those,” Byers said.
Byers said the county has had talks with Tipmont REMC/Wintek, which has been spreading high-speed broadband lines its coverage area. That includes big chunks of Tippecanoe County still using some form of phone or satellite feeds to power WiFi in homes and businesses. That sort of infrastructure improvement is considered acceptable under the federal guidelines.
“I’d be all for that,” Byers said. “But we’re really not that far along to saying what we will and what we won’t use that money for. Once we get clear on the rules, we’ll put a plan together.”
Lafayette: $16.7 million
Lafayette Mayor Tony Roswarski said more details about the city’s plan would come Monday at the Lafayette City Council’s monthly meeting. The meeting starts at 6 p.m. Monday at Lafayette City Hall, 20 N. Sixth St.
Schools in Tippecanoe County: Combined $30.1 million
Lafayette School Corp.: LSC Superintendent Les Huddle said the district is building a budget that includes as much as $17.4 million in federal reimbursements – at least 20 percent of which must go to closing gap many believe emerged during the pandemic.
“One thing that many do not understand about the ARP funds is that we are not receiving a ‘check,’” Huddle said. “While not a huge issue, we are planning our ARP budget and implementations so not to create a ‘cash flow’ issue with our funds.”
Huddle outlined a handful of projects LSC will spend the federal money on, including:
For 2021, a traditional summer school for all LSC buildings, K-12. For fall 2021 through fall 2024, LSC plans to expand the remediation opportunities and add enrichment opportunities.
Between 2021 and 2024, LSC will upgrade HVAC air handling systems to several buildings to help with air circulation and cleaner air flow. LSC also will upgrade of some buildings to improve the health and safety of students and staff. Among the examples: water bottle filling stations to replace drinking fountains and touchless bathroom fixtures.
Between 2021 and 2024, LSC plans to hire additional staff to help with the social, emotional and academic needs of the students.
LSC will continue in the next three years to continue to purchase personal protective equipment and supplies for a “clean room” in each school, so students and staff have a place if they’re ill at school.
In 2021 and 2022, LSC plans to provide continuing professional Development for all staff on cleaning processes and new procedures in each building to assist with social distancing.
Tippecanoe School Corp: TSC Superintendent Scott Hanback said Friday the district was developing a plan and would have more definite answers in a few weeks.
West Lafayette Community School Corp.: West Side schools will get $1.4 million in Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief Fund money through the American Recovery Plan.
Steve Ohlhaut, assistant chief financial officer, said the school district hadn’t finalized its grant proposal, as of this past week.
“However,” he said, “several key priorities are being considered and all are contingent on approval by the Indiana Department of Education.”
Ohlhaut said those included spending the required 20 percent of the money on initiatives aimed at alleviating learning loss due to the pandemic, including tutoring and expanded summer school opportunities.
He said West Lafayette schools also was exploring ways to increase access to mental health counseling for students, providing stipends to staff for their increased workload during the pandemic, expanding the district’s Essential Skills special education program and funding HVAC improvements to increase air quality in some buildings.
IN NEIGHBORING COUNTIES
Here’s what neighboring counties are slated to get from the American Recovery Plan, according to federal numbers compiled in a database from the Indiana Democratic Party.
County: $1.7 million
Schools: $1.9 million
County: $3.93 million
Schools: $2.04 million
County: $6.28 million
Frankfort: $3.31 million
Schools: $7.3 million
County: $3.17 million
Schools: $3.3 million
County: $7.44 million
Crawfordsville: $3.36 million
Schools: $7.7 million
County: $1.6 million
West Lebanon: $140,000
Schools: $1.3 million
County: $4.67 million
Monticello: $1.09 million
Schools: $5.4 million
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