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City mulls expected $41M windfall

Altoona expects to receive about $41 million through the recently passed American Rescue Plan, and it should begin trying to figure out how best to spend the money, City Council members said Monday.

“It would be wise to form a committee of internal and external stakeholders,” said Mayor Matt Pacifico. “This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.”

The official numbers haven’t been released, but the House Oversight Committee has provided estimates, Pacifico said. Half the money is slated to come this year and half next year, he said.

Some of it could go toward renewing sidewalks and curbs, perhaps through a city-resident partnership — work that council recently discussed outside the context of the proposed new federal funding, said Councilman Dave Butterbaugh.

Some of it could go toward capital improvements needed for Prospect Pool, whose future has recently been in doubt, officials said.

The detailed rules for use of the money haven’t come out yet, although it can’t be used to pay down debt, to pay for pensions or to fund a reduction of taxes, according to Pacifico and Councilman Jesse Ickes.

The law calls for the money to be spent by 2024, according to Pacifico.

There could be a problem getting projects done in time, said Councilman Bruce Kelley.

The volume of work the Rescue Plan will fund is likely to create a demand surge that will raise the cost of projects — which will need to be done with prevailing wages, according to Kelley and Ickes.

That could limit the amount of work that gets accomplished, the councilmen said.

The demand surge could also aggravate an existing shortage of construction materials, Kelley said.

“We need to be very judicious,” Pacifico said.

Mirror Staff Writer William Kibler is at 814-949-7038.

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