he Platte County commission unanimously voted last week to accept approximately $20 million from the U.S. Department of Treasury under the American Rescue Plan Act.
ARPA was passed in March and calls for $1.9 trillion in spending on a variety of programs.
“The federal government is giving vast amounts of money to local governments and suggesting ways to start or expand social programs,” said Platte County Commissioner Joe Vanover. “I believe we have found ways to use this money mostly on capital improvements and some to modernize how we do the business of county government.”
Cities in Platte County are eligible for payments as well. Potential payments to Platte County cities range from $50,000 for Houston Lake to $1.4 million for Parkville.
Federal guidance released in May restricts how the money can be spent by local governments. General infrastructure projects are not allowed.
“Platte County government may be able to use the money to fix leaky windows because that will improve air quality in our buildings and help employees be more resilient to COVID-19,” Vanover commented.
Vanover offered three main proposals for the federal money. The proposals can be found on Vanover’s page of the Platte County government website, www.co.platte.mo.us/second-district-commisioner <www.co.platte.mo.us/second-district-commisioner . He is requesting public comments.
“I have proposed using part of the money to update our facilities so people can quickly find the office they need without having to wander through the entire building.”
Vanover said, “Citizens should be able to get most things done with the county government over the internet. But when a person needs to come to the courthouse, moving back-office work to the back of the building and customer service counters to the front of the building will help people get in and out more quickly.”
One of Vanover’s proposals calls for increasing the number of employees who work from home. The proposal cites a recent study from the University of Chicago that says 20% of full workdays will be supplied from home after the pandemic ends. The study also says employees will enjoy large benefits from remote work and productivity will be increased.
“We need to change and update how we do business to meet the needs of today’s world,” said Vanover.
The proposals suggest a variety of programs to respond to COVID-19 and improve the functions of government. One proposal calls for identifying and testing tactics for reducing the population of the detention center.
“If we can keep the jail population low, it will be safer for inmates and we can delay the need to expand it,” Vanover said.
The county commission plans to evaluate the proposals and begin hiring architects and consultants to suggest ways to use the ARPA money.