By Conrad Dudderar
EL RENO – Canadian County Commissioners, with two newly elected members, have started work reviewing formal requests totaling $16.63 million for $12.17 million in federal stimulus funds they have left to allocate.
Canadian County received $28,806,702 from the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) of 2021, a $1.9 trillion economic stimulus bill designed to speed up the country’s recovery from the economic and health effects of the COVID-19 pandemic and an ongoing recession.
“We’re just going to have a conversation today so that we can make some decisions in the near future,” Assistant District Attorney Tommy Humphries told county commissioners Feb. 21.
Canadian County must follow a federal reporting process as these funds are obligated and spent.
“First, you all are going to ‘promise’ the money and then we will track how it’s actually spent,” explained Humphries, who administers Canadian County’s ARPA award.
Federal ARPA stimulus funds may be used to:
- Restore lost revenues for any negative tax impact due to lower economic activity.
- 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.
Commissioners already have obligated $16,632,100 of its $28.8 million ARPA award:
- $10 million for estimated “lost” Canadian County revenue, which may be used toward construction of a new county courthouse complex. This amount must be moved to the county’s general fund before any is spent.
- $6.2 million to the Canadian County Health Department. Some $6,005,867.92 has been spent to acquire property near SH-66 and Evans Road for a new CCHD site.
- $432,100 to the Canadian County District Attorney’s Office to administer the county’s ARPA funds over five years. $86,420 has been spent.
Canadian County Commissioners Dave Anderson, Tracey Rider and Tom Manske will decide how to distribute the $12,174,602 that has yet been obligated.
District 3 Commissioner Rider and District 1 Commissioner Manske took office in recent months.
Along with District 2 Commissioner Anderson, they will study written ARPA funding requests submitted by three municipalities, three rural water districts, five mental health/community services, and the county sheriff’s office.
Twelve entities are seeking shares of Canadian County’s ARPA funds, according to a spreadsheet prepared by Humphries.
- City of Mustang – $3,560,000
- City of El Reno – $3,500,000
- City of Yukon – $4,350,000
- Canadian County Water Authority – $723,179
- Okarche Water District – $1,000,000
- Maple Water District – $53,270
- Red Rock Behavioral Health – $1,699,775
- Cardinal Point Family Justice Center – $454,265
- Second Chance and Re-entry Services (SCARS) – $336,000
- Intervention and Crisis Advocacy Network (ICAN) – $33,468
- Boy Scouts Last Frontier Council – $500,000
- Canadian County Sheriff – $336,431
AT&T also has requested an unspecified portion of Canadian County ARPA funds for fiberoptic broadband Internet.
The 12 specific funding requests are nearly $4.5 million more than Canadian County has left to obligate.
“So, obviously, you can’t just honor all the requests,” ADA Humphries told commissioners. “That means, at some point, you all are going to have to ‘dig in’ and make some decisions about how we’re going to spend it.”
‘TAKE CARE OF THE NEEDS’
Canadian County Commissioners accepted ARPA funding applications through an online portal.
“We’ve got $12 million to take care of the needs – whatever percentage that we can – from the requested amounts,” Rider said.
Humphries proposed six primary categories for Canadian County’s ARPA investments:
Lost revenue, health department, administrative, municipal water, rural water, and mental health/community services.
“A philosophy that makes sense to me is to try to use these dollars in multiple different ways to touch as many people in the county as we can touch,” said Anderson, the Canadian County Commission chairman. “I do like the concept of partnering with the cities of the county on the requests that have been turned in.
“Moving forward with ARPA is something that we want to do.”
Anderson believes the three commissioners should assign percentages to funding categories as they decide how to allocate the remaining $12.17 million in ARPA funds.
As a “hypothetical”, Canadian County’s ranking commissioner suggested using 80% to fund municipal water requests, 10% for rural water districts and 10% for mental health/community services.
Commissioner Rider called that a “good place to start” before any adjustments are made.
Manske suggested he and fellow commissioners meet individually with Humphries to prioritize the categories.
The City of Yukon previously received $4,905,020 in ARPA funds directly from the federal government.
“Unfortunately, we’ve had to use some of those funds for Oklahoma City to lower water lines to some of our wells that are in Oklahoma City,” Yukon City Manager Tammy Kretchmar told county commissioners.
“So, we haven’t been able to use them on water and sewer lines or at our wastewater treatment plant because of that.”
Yukon’s water treatment plant must be upgraded from its 3 million gallons-per-day capacity to 5 million gallons to serve Yukon citizens, Kretchmar noted.
Yukon’s aging water and sewer lines also need to be replaced, she added.
Yukon was among six Canadian County municipalities awarded ARPA stimulus aid totaling $13,625,020.
Others were the City of Mustang ($3,690,000), City of El Reno ($3,210,000), City of Piedmont ($1,370,000), City of Union City ($350,000), and Town of Calumet ($100,000).
Meanwhile, the local Boy Scouts council has $2.5 million in non-ARPA dollars available for its ranch program in southeast Canadian County.