In a special virtual meeting on Monday, the Crawfordsville City Council passed first reading of an ordinance allocating more than half a million dollars in federal coronavirus relief funds for the city.
The city has to act quickly before the CARES Act funding expires at the end of the year. Crawfordsville did not receive its share of the money until earlier this month. The aid was tied up as the state tried unsuccessfully to change the rules for spending the money, Mayor Todd Barton told the council.
One of the first expenses to come out of the fund will be the city’s lease for the new community drive-thru coronavirus testing site at the former Horner Automotive Superstore, which totals $3,000 per month
The lease was signed under the provisions of the city’s ongoing public health emergency, but will go before the Board of Public Works and Safety for a formal vote next week.
CARES Act funds will also be used to change air handling systems, modify public buildings to maximize social distancing and upgrade technology for virtual government meetings.
The city applied for and received the amount of money spent on public safety salaries, but Barton said the funds would not be used to pay emergency workers. While police officers were paid for traffic control at coronavirus testing sites, Barton said there were little additional salary costs for public safety agencies.
“I guess I’m a little confused, we applied for this money because of extra work time, but we’re not using it for salaries?” asked councilman Andy Biddle, chair of the fiscal affairs committee.
After the federal government said the CARES Act could be used for public safety salaries, Barton explained, the state did not want local communities to spend the money on emergency worker pay.
The state was overruled, Barton said, but the process of applying for the funds became more complicated. Attorneys hired by the city to decipher the CARES Act’s complicated provisions suggested the city apply under the salary category nonetheless to ensure the money could be received.
Barton did not have an estimate on how much funding will be spent in the rest of 2020 because the city hasn’t yet seen the bills for some of the expenses. The city plans to encumber as many of the costs as possible at the end of the year.
The council will hear the second reading of the allocation ordinance at December’s regular council meeting. Members will be asked to appropriate next year’s CARES Act funding in January.