By Conrad Dudderar
Canadian County recently received the second half of its COVID-19 pandemic relief allocation.
In 2021, Canadian County was awarded $28 million from the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA). The first half of those funds arrived a few months after the initial award.
This June, commissioners spent $6 million of the county’s ARPA funding to purchase property in central Canadian County for a new Canadian County Health Department clinic and offices.
Some $432,100 previously was approved for the District Attorney’s Office to administrator the ARPA program for Canadian County.
The three-member Canadian County Commission will wait until next January before discussing how to spend the rest, Chairman Dave Anderson said.
Two newly elected county commissioners, Tom Manske and Tracey Rider, begin their terms in office Jan. 1, 2023.
In October 2021, six municipalities and one rural water district submitted to Canadian County Commissioners ARPA funding requests totaling $13.25 million to fund water infrastructure upgrades:
City of Yukon ($4,350,000), City of Mustang ($3,560,000), City of El Reno ($3,500,000), City of Piedmont ($1,330,000), City of Union City ($256,000), Heaston Water District ($150,000), and Town of Calumet ($94,000).
Chairman Anderson supports funding both the health department building purchase and local water improvements with some of Canadian County’s $28 million ARPA allocation.
He also wants to use a significant part of the ARPA award toward future construction of a new courthouse complex in El Reno.
“The courthouse serves all people who come to the county,” said Anderson, noting the county’s 60-year-old administration office building has mechanical problems.
“We’ve already notified the federal government that we’re going to use $10 million of it to go back into our county general fund. Once it goes in the general fund, it becomes ‘fair game’ to all the departments.”
County officials could use some ARPA funds for road and bridge improvements.
Chairman Anderson has expressed his desire to “place a priority on projects that have the greatest return on our investment.”
The ARPA of 2021 is a $1.9 trillion economic stimulus bill designed to speed up the United States’ recovery from the economic and health effects of the COVID-19 pandemic and an ongoing recession.
Canadian County leaders have been approached about pooling their ARPA funds with cities to fund rural Internet broadband upgrades.
Anderson, the District 2 county commissioner, does not support that proposal.
“County government is in the business of health departments and it’s in the business of roads and bridges,” he said. “But it’s really not in the broadband business.”
Canadian County Commissioners also received formal ARPA funding requests from other entities, including the Canadian County Water Authority, Sheriff’s Office, and Boy Scouts.
“There’s a pretty large list of people who have applied for those funds,” Anderson said.
Counties, municipalities and states may spend APRA funds to:
- Upgrade and improve Internet broadband, water and sewer infrastructure.
- Respond to the negative economic impacts and public health impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic and to be prepared for any future pandemics.
- Provide premium pay for essential employees who undertook required public health-related work during the pandemic.
- Restore lost revenues for any negative tax impact due to lower economic activity.
Six Canadian County municipalities were awarded ARPA stimulus aid directly from the federal government: City of Mustang ($3,690,000), City of El Reno ($3,210,000), City of Yukon ($4,905,020), City of Piedmont ($1,370,000), City of Union City ($350,000), and Town of Calumet ($100,000).