COVID-19 funds go to local projects | News

The Lenoir City Council approved the distribution of $1.45 million in American Rescue Plan Act funds for local projects impacting downtown tourism and business promotion and bonuses for employees from the city.

Lenoir City received $2.76 million from the Local Fiscal Recovery Fund, which was created by the state to allocate federal funds distributed under ARPA.

The total estimated cost of the 10 projects selected for funding this year is approximately $1.45 million. The remaining $1.3 million will be distributed next year.

Determining the distribution of the money involved numerous meetings between the purchasing committee, the mayor’s office and the city manager. Final decisions had to wait for updated state and federal guidelines.

“I think we made good use of the money that was allocated to us,” City Manager Amber Scott Kelso said.

She said those involved in the decisions had taken courses on the authorized use of funds and collected information from numerous organisations. A report was prepared detailing the purpose and cost of each project.

The largest individual item on the list of approved projects was $350,000 for downtown economic impact. According to the project description, the Historic Downtown Merchants Association plans to create an outdoor venue to attract people to downtown.

Kelso said the proposed venue would be located off Broadway, across from the intersection with A Street. The venue would include a portable stage, sufficient lighting, sound and electricity to support regular entertainment events. The entrance to the area could include an arch.

Loudon County Chamber of Commerce President Rodney Grugin said the project has been discussed as an ideal location to host events.

The Loudon County Visitors Bureau, which also reports to the chamber, received $250,000 to expand a network of trails through an unused area of ​​Lenoir City Park that includes a pond. The system would be part of the Lakeway to the city’s Smokies visitor area.

Grugin said the city cleared the area around the pond in preparation for extending trails that would be used by both visitors and local residents.

“Anything that brings people to Loudon County is a good thing,” he said. “We need to encourage more outdoor activities.”

A project to purchase five COVID-19 mitigation response vehicles received $250,000. The vehicles would be equipped with hazmat suits, fresh air filtration, plastic seat covers and a watertight bulkhead.

The vehicles would be designated sterile for use in transporting inmates or patients with COVID-19. “The new vehicles will reduce the spread of viruses and help in any pandemic to protect the safety of all individuals,” according to the report.

Kelso said the idea is to be better prepared if another pandemic occurs.

“When this happened during the pandemic, we really had no way of dealing with it safely if we had to transport a prisoner with COVID,” she said.

Tree removal from Rock Springs Creek at an estimated cost of $140,000 was also approved. The fallen trees disrupted the flow of the creek and caused infrastructure damage and a negative impact on water quality.

A total of $433,500 has been allocated to provide payments to municipal workers at all levels. City employees have done a great job keeping all services running during the pandemic, Kelso said.

“We never close city offices,” she said. “We actually increased the services.”

The payments include $76,000 to provide $500 each to employees of the Lenoir City Utility Board, $5,000 to provide $1,000 each to employees of the Lenoir City Housing Authority, $128,000 to provide $500 each to employees of schools in the town of Lenoir, $217,000 to provide $2,500 each to the town on a full-time basis. workers and $7,500 to provide $500 each for part-time municipal workers.

Jeanne Barker, Principal of Lenoir City Schools, said she is delighted that the efforts of school employees are being recognized.

“All of our teachers have worked very hard during COVID,” she said.

The Loudon County Boys & Girls Club, Loudon County Habitat for Humanity, Good Samaritan Center of Loudon County and the Lenoir City Panther Foundation will receive a total of $30,000.

“Due to lack of resources, many nonprofits have not been able to maintain direct stability in the number of people who encounter services, which compensates for a sharp reduction in donations during the pandemic,” says city ​​report.

Kelso said next year’s disbursement could be completely different in terms of the type of projects funded.

Councilman Eddie Simpson, who is retiring as superintendent of county roads, said he hopes there might be money for the city’s roads included in the allocation of funds from the county. ‘next year. Lenoir City Roads Supervisor JJ Cox said the city’s roads have not received any federal funding since the “shovel-ready” projects funded under President Obama’s administration.