Warren County aims to strengthen recovery with $45M in ARPA funds

The Warren County Administration Building was constructed for $15 million in cash including furnishings in 2001. County officials recently allocated nearly $46 million in federal American Rescue Plan Act funding for a number of projects across Warren County. FILE PHOTO

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The Warren County Administration Building was constructed for $15 million in cash including furnishings in 2001. County officials recently allocated nearly $46 million in federal American Rescue Plan Act funding for a number of projects across Warren County. FILE PHOTO

While some Warren County commissioners did not want the $46 million in federal American Rescue Plan Act funding, the commissioners accepted it, as they did not want Warren County’s allocation to go to another county or state.

Martin Russell, Warren County deputy administrator, recently gave the commissioners a list of proposed projects where the funds could be used to benefit residents countywide. The commissioners approved the concept plan.

“While federal guidance is broad on how to invest these funds, the goal is to expressly assist individuals and grow industries impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic,” he said.

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Russell said the commissioners provided the framework, and feedback was received from the entire community.

He outlined three categories of potential projects where nearly $45 million of the total federal funding could be invested — direct pandemic-related expenses; infrastructure; and economic development.

Direct pandemic-related expenses

More than $11.8 million in funding is designated for these expenses that will support testing, vaccinations, workplace modifications and other items associated with the COVID-19 pandemic.

It will also provided strategic investments to support operations at the Warren County Jail and all county school districts during the pandemic. Part of those funds are being used with county school districts’ “test to play” program through the Warren County Educational Service Center, which has become a statewide model in keeping more students in school.

The funding is also being used to replace lost revenue for the county and for the Warren County Convention and Visitors Bureau.

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Economic development

In this category, more than $12.2 million will be used for childcare enhancement. Russell said funding would be used to support increased capacity and stability in childcare to ensure quality childcare is available for families so they can stay connected to the workforce.

The county also wants to reinvigorate the travel and tourism sector and those employed in that industry. Among the proposed projects include partnering with the city of Middletown and the private sector to develop a multipurpose entertainment venue at the Towne Mall Galleria. This would be in addition to developing new turf fields at the Warren County Sports Complex.

Other projects include upgrades at Armco Park; improvements at Camp Joy; facility upgrades at the Warren County Fairgrounds Event Center; matching funds for the Makino Park improvements and Lebanon Mason Monroe Railroad bridge work; and workforce initiatives to assist impacted industries and workers.

Infrastructure

More than $20.9 million in various infrastructure projects have been proposed using the county’s ARPA funds. The county is proposing to support the increased level of water service for all Warren County Water customers (about 32,000), with water softening as well as removing the surcharges customers pay, which will provide a $200 savings per water customer.

Other projects include expanding broadband services to unserved and underserved rural and urban communities; preparing the Warren County Health Department to better address the current pandemic and any future pandemic-related needs.

The federal money also provides funding for core services such as the local food banks, Warren County Community Services, Abuse and Rape Crisis Shelter, and an elevator for the South Lebanon Senior Center; training for Warren County Children Services personnel; technology upgrades at the Warren County Common Pleas Court; sewer/stormwater improvements; homeless services at Joshua’s Place; a van for the Health Department for vaccine services; and relocation of the Health Department facility.

This is in addition to a one-time $47 million property tax holiday for Warren County property owners in 2022.

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