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Salem council sets up account for rescue funds

SALEM — City council moved to accept an estimated $2.2 million in funds from the American Rescue Plan Tuesday, but half the money isn’t expected to hit city coffers until next month.

The rest will come 12 month later.

As for how to spend it, that wasn’t discussed. City Auditor Betty Brothers said there are still a lot of questions on how the money can be used, with some very general guidelines in place now.

She said the money can be spent on negative impacts caused by the pandemic, aid to impacted industries, preventing cuts to government services, such as using it to make up a shortfall in the city income tax, or investing in improvements to water, sewer or broadband services.

The money must be placed in its own checking account so that any interest goes back into the fund. City council approved legislation to set up a separate fund for the money and to accept the money. According to Brothers, the state is expected to get its distribution May 10, then has 30 days to issue the money to local governments, such as the city. All funds must be used by 2024, but only half of the $2.2 million will come this year and the other half in 12 months.

“A lot of information and a lot of ‘we don’t know’ right now,” she said.

City council’s Finance Committee recommended the acceptance of the funds during a meeting prior to council.

In other action, council voted for use of the alternative method of distributing Local Government Funds, approved several appropriations, and approved the holding of a citywide auction for no longer used equipment in city departments.

Brothers said the last auction was five years ago. She said she received a request from Parks Director Shane Franks who said the department had a lot of items to sell. Government can only donate or auction off unused surplus equipment. She learned that other departments also had items to sell.

The public auction will be held June 23 in the parking lot at Waterworth Memorial Park. Money raised will go back to the departments where the items came from.

Council also authorized the city Utilities Commission to apply for, accept and enter into a water pollution loan agreement for wastewater treatment plant improvements, agreed to allow for advertising for bids and contracting for the street paving project and allowed for the use of council contingency funds to pay for cups and signs related to the Designated Outdoor Refreshment Area and the street signs honoring Howard A. Tibbs along Second Street.

mgreier@salemnews.net

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