Pinellas Commissioners Discuss US Rescue Fund Dollar Spending Plan | Pinellas County

LARGO – Pinellas County Commissioners reviewed a list of staff ideas for spending $ 189 million in funding from the federal government’s American Rescue Plan Act during a working session on Nov. 4.

Lara Wojahn, the county’s program manager for the US bailout, told commissioners rules for spending the funds had not yet been finalized by the Treasury Department; however, there are enough tips to start planning how to spend them.

County departments have submitted more than $ 500 million worth of ideas and projects as suggestions on what to do with the unexpected windfall. Wojahn was asking the committee for political direction as staff continue to work on the spending plan before bringing the list back for approval on December 7. The money must be spent by December 31, 2026.

She said large projects meant to be “transformative” had to be launched quickly to be completed on time, so the commission should approve them as soon as possible.

Staff consider projects that have been identified as a priority by the community, those that have been proposed by more than one ministry, jurisdiction or agency, as well as projects that improve the health and / or economic outcomes of a poorly affected community. served, like Lealman or Highpoint.

Other ideas involve projects that avoid legacy costs, lessen county responsibility, and projects that align with the county’s strategic plan.

The Treasury Department has defined seven categories of expenditure.

• Category 1: public health projects.

• Category 2: negative economic impacts.

• Category 3: hard-hit communities.

• Category 4: premium for frontline workers. Pinellas will not use this category.

• Category 5: infrastructures.

• Category 6: income replacement.

• Category 7: administration.

Wojahn provided several examples from each category except 4, which Pinellas does not intend to use. Plans for Category 1 include spending $ 1 million for the Sheriff’s mental health team, $ 5.7 million for the Human Services software system, and $ 1 million for an access model. coordinated.

Wojahn said in Category 2, staff proposed to use 10% of the total, or $ 19 million, for capital improvement projects for nonprofits. Commissioner Pat Gerard said $ 19 million was too much, while Commissioner Rene Flowers said the amount was fair, especially during this time when the cost of everything was rising.

Ideas for Category 3, hard-hit communities, such as Lealman and Highpoint, included spending $ 3.161 million for Joe’s Creek Greenway and adjacent projects, $ 3.8 million for Raymond Neri Park and 10 million dollars for recreational facilities in Unincorporated Seminole.

In Category 5, Infrastructure, staff propose to spend $ 3.6 million on the Palm Harbor regional stormwater system and $ 10 million on the county’s next project to relocate those who still use septic tanks. to the sewer system.

Category 6, Income Replacement, expenses include $ 200,000 in the Ridgecrest area, specifically for Gulf Terrace and Rainbow Village infrastructure, $ 500,000 for electric vehicle infrastructure and an undetermined amount for a regional training center to fires.

Commissioner Janet Long said more needed to be included for electric vehicle charging stations. County administrator Barry Burton reminded the commissioner that local municipalities also receive a share of federal funds and can set up their own charging stations. The county does not need to provide county-wide chargers, he said.

The final cost, $ 1.2 million, will cover the management, coordination, reporting and compliance of the program over the next five years.

Commissioners also received a five-page list of ideas, totaling nearly $ 241 million. Of this amount, $ 152.6 million was the total of projects that could be completed immediately and $ 88 million was the cost of projects that would take more time and review.

Wojahn said she would return to the committee on December 7 with a more finalized list of projects. Burton said the plan was for the commission to approve at least part of those projects, so work can begin. He does not expect all projects to be approved. He said approval would be an ongoing process over the next few years.

In other cases, the commission agreed to continue meeting in Largo until February 2022. The plan is to return to Clearwater at the time with regular meetings taking place in the boardroom and working sessions. and other meetings taking place in a newly renovated space designed to accommodate larger groups.

Suzette Porter is the editor-in-chief of TBN in Pinellas County. She can be contacted at [email protected]

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