THE CITY OF THE LAKECS – Affordable housing, employee hiring plans, water and sewage system upgrades and employee bonuses are some of the ways Lake City officials will use $3.2 million in cash of the US rescue plan.
The city received $1.6 million, with the rest of the federal aid arriving in October, city administrator William Hall said.
President Joe Biden signed the American Rescue Plan Act in March 2021. It included $350 billion in aid to state and local governments. In the United States, state and local governments have reported at least $117 billion in expected revenue in 2020, according to an analysis by The Associated Press. Today, many cities and states have a surplus of money, spurred in part by US bailout money.
Lake City, Hall said, reported no loss of revenue during the COVID-19 pandemic. The city waived late fees and penalties for eight months on its water bills and did not disconnect any customers.
“We worked with them for 90 days to get them taken,” Hall said. “It’s really a loss of income, but we have watched our expenses. Even though our income was down, we were very careful with our expenses. We knew we were facing a challenge. So what we’ve done is cut expenses. We literally put money back into the fund balance.
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Spending adjustments made up for revenue losses suffered by the Utilities Department, he said.
Money from the U.S. bailout will be used to improve the community, Hall said. U.S. bailout money is to be used by 2026. Lake City officials are working on plans that will improve the quality of life for Lake City residents, Hall said.
About 6,700 people live in Lake City.
“We are working on projects that will best benefit the community,” Hall said.
The city has received positive feedback on the city’s U.S. bailout projects that are underway or under consideration, Mayor Lovith Anderson said.
“Our infrastructure is old. Many have been here since the 1960s,” Anderson said. “It needs to be modernized. We are trying to take on a monumental task and improve on as much as possible. »
Residents are happy when the city can fix streets and prevent water pipes from bursting and “throwing water everywhere,” Anderson said.
“We want to make sure our equipment and operations are in good shape, and everyone knows what’s going on,” he said.
The city is also experiencing staffing issues, Anderson said, and is issuing incentives to attract and retain potential employees in Lake City. The incentives, in some cases, go beyond signing bonuses.
First, all city employees worked during the pandemic and received bonuses for keeping doors open and providing city services. Those bonuses totaled $309,100, which was taken from federal aid the city received in October 2021.
Retention, Recruitment and Housing
Lake City officials are going even further than signing bonuses to attract first responders.
Signing bonuses are received today and spent tomorrow, Hall said.
“What we’re offering in the City of Lake City is a bit more tangible to recruit first responders and bring them to life in the communities they serve. We are going to pay $5,000 towards the purchase of a house,” he said.
The house will appreciate over the years and be worth more than $5,000 over the years, he said.
“That $5,000 now turns into $10,000,” he said.
The money is in escrow at the home of the first responder, Hall said.
“It’s an investment in our communities as well as an investment in the essential staff members that we want to integrate into our home environment here in the City of Lake City,” Hall said.
Lake City Police Chief Joseph Cooper said it’s important that officers live in the communities they serve. Their presence makes a difference for the people of the neighborhood.
“It gives them more of a one-on-one. …I think you will patrol better and take better care of the community. Ultimately, I think it gives the community some peace of mind that a police officer actually lives in your community,” he said.
Housing, Cooper said, has been an issue in hiring police officers.
Lake City wants to offer police officers more than a job, Cooper said. The city wants to offer recruits a career in law enforcement.
“We want them to stay longer and invest in what we have,” Cooper said.
The city has a dedicated realtor and mortgage broker who will help recruits find housing and financing for a mortgage, Hall said.
“In our conversation with our mortgage broker, a normal mortgage company is looking for a 620 on your credit score. The good thing about this program is that we have a mortgage broker who has agreed to work with people who have a 580 credit score. That’s a major ask and a major offer for people,” Hall said.
For recruits who don’t have a 580 credit score, the broker will put them on a plan to build their credit, Hall said.
City officials want to use city-owned property to build affordable housing, Hall said. The city is working with a local architectural firm to build affordable housing for city residents.
“Moms and pops who live paycheck to paycheck,” Hall said. “Now we have houses that are on the plans to be built that cost between $175,000 and $180,000, but these will be in the $90,000 range,” he said. “It will be something that we can say will be really affordable for people who work 9 to 5 seven days a week or two jobs to keep food on the table,” he said.
Infrastructure repairs are planned:
Refurbishment of the Checkerboard Water Tank and Matthews Street Water Tank at a total cost of $600,000. Both water tanks must be maintained to pass upcoming state inspections. Federal aid money was allocated for these projects, but city officials sought state grants for the projects. If the grants are approved, the federal aid money will be directed to other projects, Hall said.
Repair collapsed sewers on Carver Street and Floyd Avenue. The cost of these repairs is $160,000. “We’re replacing the whole line,” Hall said.
The $1.5 million Martha Law Drive sewer replacement project is on the list. Grant applications are being written and the scope of the project is still being finalized, Hall said.
Sewer system maintenance is a project slated to receive federal aid money that Lake City will receive in October.
The city council will continue to look for ways to use federal assistance to improve the community, Anderson said.