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Strohm lays out ARP spending plan

City Manager Omar Strohm on Monday proposed a tentative plan to City Council for spending all $39.6 million that Altoona will be receiving through the American Rescue Plan.

Strohm’s plan calls for spending the money in 18 categories, some more specific than others — eight focused on in-house city government projects or issues and the rest focused on community benefits.

The plan breaks down the spending over four years, with $7 million projected for next year, followed by $13.2 million, $13.7 million and $5.6 million in subsequent years.

Storm sewer rehabilitation would take the biggest chunk at $14 million, in keeping with the bulk of requests from residents at two meetings that council held in the summer to take recommendations.

Strohm’s plan also calls for spending $4 million on a revolving loan fund for business development that would be administered by the Altoona Blair County Development Corp.; $3.1 million for reconstituting city positions eliminated due to COVID-19; $3 million each to fund land bank projects, expansion of the police station, recreation and business revitalization grants.

There’s also $2.5 million for sidewalks; $2.1 million for miscellaneous projects; $500,000 to turn the former J&J Recycling building into a city training facility; $310,000 for information technology equipment and software; $250,000 to upgrade the highway garage; $200,000 for the Central Blair Recreation and Park Commission; $75,000 to renovate a fourth-floor conference room in City Hall; $62,000 to make up for direct COVID-19 costs, and $20,000 for the Greater Altoona Economic Development Corp.

While ABCD Corp. would administer the revolving loan program, council will write the guidelines for spending the money and exercise ultimate control, based on suggestions by Councilman Bruce Kelley that were seconded by Councilman Dave Butterbaugh.

Council is ultimately responsible for the taxpayer-sourced money and shouldn’t cede control to a “third party,” Kelley said.

The plan is subject to change, especially in 2022, 2023 and 2024, council members stressed.

The city will seek to use the ARP money to leverage additional grant funding, said Mayor Matt Pacifico.

Staff will propose a resolution at council’s meeting in November to formalize the spending proposals for next year only.

This is “a bit of a roadmap to get started,” Kelley said.

“These are recommendations from me,” Strohm said. “They’re obviously not in stone.”

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

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