By Leah Sander
WARSAW — Kosciusko County plans to use $1.28 million of its American Rescue Plan Act money on its public safety communications tower project.
At its regular meeting on Thursday, Aug. 12, the Kosciusko County Council approved 5-0 to use a portion of the $15.4 million from the federal government as part of the ARP. Council Vice President Sue Ann Mitchell and Members Jon Garber, Mike Long, Joni Truex and Kim Cates all voted in favor. Council President Ernie Wiggins and Member Kathy Groninger were absent.
The Kosciusko County Commissioners already agreed to the plan.
The project includes three main towers located at the Kosciusko County Highway Department, Claypool Elementary School and near Dewart Lake. Two supplementary towers are planned for locations in northwest and southeast Kosciusko County.
Using the money for the project was recommended by the county’s ARP committee, which includes voting members Mitchell, Wiggins and County Commissioner Cary Groninger and non-voting members County Auditor Michelle Puckett and Administrator Marsha McSherry.
McSherry presented the recommendation to council Thursday.
The unexpected emergency money approved earlier this year by Congress and President Joe Biden will help free up other money the county had originally set aside for the project, which was expected to cost upward of $2.4 million.
The council will formally approve the spending plan at its next meeting, Thursday, Sept. 9. However as Mitchell pointed out, the use of the money is still just a plan since government has “not finalized what you can spend (ARP) money on yet.”
“I do want to say on the behalf of the committee that we have done a lot of talking, we’ve done a lot of thinking, but we haven’t spent the money,” she said.
She said based on a webinar she watched that finalization for how ARP funds may be spent may come in September. The county’s ARP committee did check with a consultant before recommending to spend some county funds on the project.
Related, McSherry said various county entities, including fire departments and sewer districts, have inquired about getting the county’s permission to use ARP money for projects. She said once the county’s ARP committee is more organized, it will have meetings to talk with the entities about requests.
The federal government has mandated that ARP funds must be obligated by 2024 and paid out by 2026, said Puckett.