City of Beatrice discussing use of over $3 million in federal funding

BEATRICE – Over one million dollars in CARES money…Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Security Act money…will allow the city of Beatrice to take care of some items and reduce impact on the local budget.

City Administrator Tobias Tempelmeyer says the city has about $1.1 million remaining after using a small amount for personal protective equipment and overtime costs during the pandemic.

"We looked for items that have been in the budget for a number of years but remain unfunded. We looked for items that would allow us not to issue public safety debt this next year, which would allow us to keep our property tax levy lower. And, we looked for items that concerned public safety."

The mayor and city council were briefed on the uses proposed for the funds, at a Monday night work session. They include a generator for city hall, two police administration vehicles and two patrol units, replacement of police handguns, upgrading a police firing range, computer software for the city’s E-ticket program and expansion of the communications center.

"With the addition of Richardson County, you will not have three dispatchers on 24-hours a day, so you'll add a fourth console...a backup console. With that, you'll need additional space and they would look to take over the conference room that's in the police department today...expand into that area, which is adjacent to the current dispatch center."

Also proposed is purchase of a new fire department rescue truck to replace a 1997 vehicle….and replacing firefighter air packs.  After those projects, about $200,000 would be left to go into the city’s reserve fund.  "For the next emergency. We know at some point that something is going to happen...we're proposing that we leave those additional funds for the next rainy day that occurs."

City Councilman Bob Morgan said the purposes for which the CARES Act funding will be used are reasonable.
"You could probably pick a lot of projects, but these are all things that save us debt, or we've been trying to do it for several years. We put, at least our firefighters and law enforcement in a safer position. It just makes perfect sense."  Mayor Stan Wirth says the purchases are all for purposes that are positive and a part of public safety. The projects would be included in the next fiscal year under the city’s new capital improvements budget. This summer, a new biennial budget for the city is being formulated.

While the city of Beatrice uses CARES Act funds, it also will see about $2.1 million in American Rescue Plan Act federal funds. About half of that has been received, with another $1 million expected next July.

City Administrator Tempelmeyer says four categories are eligible but there are more strings attached to the funds. He told the mayor and city council Monday night that the money must be obligated by the end of 2024.  Officials have projected the areas the funds would carry the most benefit is for items such as building ventilation, storm sewer, wastewater projects, water mains and broadband projects. One of the projects apparently coming to the forefront is drainage improvements along 19th Street in the east part of the city.  

Tempelmeyer says, "I can't just fix 19th Street, but if I have to tear out 19th Street to put the storm water improvements in, we can re-pour 19th Street.  We've talked about some different drainage studies, talked about retention ponds...those types of things might possibly be eligible. Obviously, we have improvements at the wastewater treatment facility or the lift stations that need to be made."

Mayor Stan Wirth says the 19th Street drainage work could solve a long-term problem. "I think the storm water improvements along 19th Street is's been that way a long time."  The east Beatrice storm water project, possibly with retention ponds and related work drew the most initial interest from council members.

The ARPA money cannot be used to retire debt, go into a reserve account or repair streets.