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Vienna officials talk COVID-19 funds, bid approvals

VIENNA — Vienna City Council met Thursday to discuss beginning the formation of a framework for the usage of American Rescue Plan funds.

The American Rescue Plan was passed by Congress in March and created an additional $1.9 trillion economic stimulus package aimed at creating relief for the impacts of COVID-19 on states and cities nationwide, as well as the promotion of long-lasting improvements.

According to Mayor Randy Rapp, the city of Vienna has received the first half of its payment, coming to a total of $1,318,671. The other half of the funding will be granted in 2022, with a total of approximately $2.6 million in federal funding being granted to Vienna.

“We need to start a conversation about where you all (council) would like to concentrate that money,” Rapp said.

City Recorder Melissa Elam said the funds can be used based on different criteria requirements and restrictions: to support public health expenditures for the fight against COVID-19; to address negative economic impacts to businesses and households; to replace lost public sector revenue for government services; to provide premium pay for frontline workers; and to invest in infrastructure improvements.

“If you reimburse yourself for lost (city) revenues, that money can then be put back into the general fund where there are no restrictions,” Rapp said.

Council member Kim Williams mentioned revenue numbers and emphasized that her ideal priority for the funds would be towards infrastructure such as water, sewer and stormwater management.

“The revenues we actually got are $245,000 over projected revenues,” Williams said. “… I think the thing to do is invest it in infrastructure.”

Williams also mentioned that funding could be used to avoid water and sewer fee increases.

Council member Jim Leach agreed, but also added that there are other necessities that the city should focus on to create a balance. Rapp mentioned continued street and city park improvements.

“These are competing priorities,” Leach said. “I think we need to consider these other areas too.”

Rapp recommended that council members each create top priority lists that will then be aggregated for the next council meeting to advance the discussion further and get a good idea of what council aims to work on.

“The point of this money was to make a lasting improvement on your city, so I think we need to consider projects that will benefit us years down the road,” Rapp said.

Williams additionally emphasized that the council should have a greater understanding of the specific needs of the water and sewer projects.

“From what I understand the water and sewer are beginning to reach a critical place and we need to take action soon,” Elam said.

Leach proposed the idea of inviting different departments to a meeting for a more holistic conversation as ideas for the funding begin to come together.

“That kind of collaboration would remove some of the disconnect,” Leach said.

Rapp said funds from the American Rescue Plan do not need to be spent in their entirety until 2024.

Other council business included:

* The unanimous approval of the construction and installation of new TREK playground equipment through Scot’s Landscape and Nursery for $29,987.

* The unanimous approval of budget revisions pertaining to issues such as lump sum payments for city employees who took vacation or sick days and the movement of funding for projects such as the HVAC improvements for the Vienna Senior Center.

* The unanimous approval of the Coal Severance Budget Revision, which allows funds to be used on street projects.

Jenna Pierson can be reached at jpierson@newsandsentinel.com

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