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Monday, October 25, 2021

Egan identifies key initial projects he wants to tackle COVID-19 relief fund

From updated Wi-Fi to retaining walls in bus shelters, Egan executives have outlined a range of projects they want to tackle with their COVID-19 relief funds.

Egan received $3.9 million from the federal government in July to cover revenue losses during the pandemic. In total, it will receive $6.9 million, with the rest coming in July 2022.

“We know we will feel the financial impact of the pandemic in the coming years,” said city assistant finance director Josh Feldman. “As a city, we are working to identify ideas and investment avenues to continue to provide the top services and programs expected by our community.”

Projects recently identified for funding and their estimated costs include:

  • Vehicle maintenance area air-conditioning at central center: $125,000.
  • Property improvements, including fiber optics, in the River Valley Area: $350,000.
  • Retaining wall for MVTA bus shelters in Lexington and Lone Oak: $25,000.
  • Replace underground fuel storage tank at central maintenance: $300,000.
  • Various Waterbody Access improvements: $40,000.
  • Additional cleaning machines: $50,000.
  • Extend Fee Option Program in Parks for Needy: $75,000.
  • Strengthen Wi-Fi at Egan Civic Arena: $20,000.
  • Cardiac arrest equipment for the fire department: $228,000.
  • Replace and augment ECC mechanical systems: $600,000.
  • AV Equipment Improvement: $75,000.
  • Council Chambers Equipment Update: $200,000.
  • Egan Room Equipment Update: $100,000.
  • Website Redesign: $50,000.
  • Data request workflow improvement: $11,000.
  • Closed captions for programming and meetings: $61,000.
  • Digital software and applications: $95,000.
  • “Rick on the Go” bus and trailer to house play and fitness equipment: $175,000.
  • Racial Equity Planning Advisor: $50,000-$100,000.
  • Racial Equity and Inclusion Coordinator position: $150,000 annually.

American rescue plan money can be used to address public health emergencies, negative economic impacts, provide wages to essential workers, and offset revenue losses. These include everything from infrastructure maintenance and modernization of cyber security to healthcare and public safety support. Money cannot be reserved for rainy day purposes or kept in financial reserves.

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The pandemic “changed the way our residents and businesses interact with us and the way we do business,” Feldman wrote in an email.

“We are looking for additional ways to optimize and invest in our services to meet the needs of our community and grow Egan,” he added.

The project list has not been finalized and all suggestions are up for revision, said Joe Elickson, Egan’s director of communications and engagement.

Suggestions varied in neighborhood and size throughout the city. These ranged from infrastructure maintenance to essential emergency equipment to technological upgrades. A possible future upgrade: improved Wi-Fi access in parks across the city.

“The need for a digital connection has never been stronger than it was in the past year,” Alixon said. “We are seeing more and more people finding ways to interact and stay connected in natural places.”

In early 2022, Egan City Council will hold a revision meeting in response to the suggestions. The money should be spent by the end of 2026.

Elickson said there are still projects under consideration that haven’t been given a specified budget, but will be discussed during the revision meeting. Some ideas include maintaining air purification systems in public buildings and funding police facility maintenance, training and operational requests.

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