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Parkersburg City Council seeks input on Rescue Plan funds

Parkersburg resident Lisa Doyle-Parsons speaks to Parkersburg City Council members during a special meeting to get input from the public on the use of federal American Rescue Plan funding. (Photo by Evan Bevins)

PARKERSBURG — Attendance was light at a special Parkersburg City Council meeting Tuesday to hear input on how the city should use the nearly $22 million it’s receiving from the American Rescue Plan Act.

But Council President Zach Stanley said that doesn’t mean members won’t still be listening.

“I thought there’d be more people,” he said after the 6 p.m. meeting that lasted about 20 minutes. “But at the same time … it doesn’t end tonight.”

Stanley encouraged people to contact council members via the means listed online at parkersburgcity.com or send communications to the city clerk’s office.

The meeting opened with Stanley outlining some of the guidelines for the use of the money, which must be allocated by Dec. 31, 2024, and spent no later than Dec. 31, 2026.

Parkersburg City Councilman Austin Richards, left, hands papers on the city’s American Rescue Plan funds to Reed Byers, an employee of Give More Connections, during a special meeting Tuesday. (Photo by Evan Bevins)

Permitted uses include supporting public health responses, such as mitigating the spread of COVID-19 or providing behavioral health services; addressing negative public impacts from the pandemic, like assisting workers, families and small businesses; replacing public revenue lost due to the pandemic; providing premium pay to essential workers; and investing in water, sewer and broadband infrastructure.

The city has received $10,925,203.50 and is due to get the rest of its funding in June. Council has already allocated $7 million to the Parkersburg Utility Board for a water system improvement project, resulting in a lower rate increase for customers. Another $200,000 was approved to help leverage state funds to extend water and sewer service to a development site atop Fort Boreman Hill.

The money cannot be used to offset tax reductions or make extra payments into pension funds.

Stanley said council will solicit input in the future from nonprofit organizations and businesses but Tuesday’s meeting was focused on ideas from individuals.

Parkersburg resident Lisa Doyle-Parsons suggested council consider assistance for the working poor, people who have maintained low-paying jobs throughout the pandemic but make just enough money to not qualify for additional assistance.

Parkersburg City Council President Zach Stanley discusses the guidelines for American Rescue Plan funding Tuesday during a special meeting in council chambers at the Municipal Building. (Photo by Evan Bevins)

“Every day as I go to the grocery store, I’m really alarmed at the rising prices,” she said. “Food security for working families is something I’m highly concerned about.”

Subsidies for day care would help people be able to work, Doyle-Parsons said.

“That can’t happen if there’s not somewhere to leave your children, somewhere safe,” she said.

Parkersburg resident Tammy Canty asked council to use funding to assist the homeless.

“In my area, there’s a bunch of homeless people,” she said. “And I’m talking young kids. They have nowhere to go.”

Reed Byers, who works at Give More Connections, spoke in favor of efforts to help youth who may be struggling with mental illness and drug abuse. He discussed his own challenges in those areas and how he benefited from services to which others might not have access.

“I think we need to make it more OK and more normal to ask for help,” he said.

Parkersburg resident Sue Ellen Waybright reiterated concerns she voiced at the last regular council meeting about the city’s infrastructure.

“This is a one-time opportunity … and I hope you will continue to reach out to the public for their input,” she said.

Six council members attended the meeting, with Councilmen Bob Mercer, J.R. Carpenter and Mike Reynolds absent.

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