The McLeod County Board agreed this past week to set aside major American Rescue Plan Act funds for upcoming projects and plans, the largest being a $2.7 million allocation for fairgrounds and parks.
Those funds would target eligible enhancement and improvement projects.
“This is undoubtedly a lot of money, and it should catch peoples’ attention,” said board Vice Chairman Paul Wright. “We’ve had long range planning on the fairgrounds, we’re in the process of the parks plan. These are public assets, amenities, that we have here not only for our constituents, but also bring people through McLeod County.”
While the county often looks at project ideas, when it comes to figuring out how to fit them in the budget, there is no room.
“This is a way to definitely do some improvements, some repairs, without having to use levy funds,” Wright said, “and be able to devote some time into planning some of those projects without wasting a lot of time planning a project and then at the end we don’t have money for it. This is an opportunity to cover a lot of ground.”
The $2.7 million will be set aside, with individual expenditures reviewed as each project is brought to the Board.
“We’ll cross the projects as they come,” said board Chairman Doug Krueger.
Another major investment was $45,000 for the County Ditch 11 wetland project in Winsted. It will help match a Clean Water Grant secured by the Mcleod County Soil and Water Conservation District for $50,000, with Winsted providing the additional funds to meet the $96,000 cost. Winsted will also cover additional project costs, such as engineering, and work time.
“It’s clean water, and when we’re judged on clean water, we’re not judged on Winsted, Brownton or Hutchinson,” Krueger said. “It’s overall. Our SWCDs work hard to keep working that forward. It’s a necessary evil that we take all the steps to run McLeod County’s drainage in a prudent and legal way. I’m also very satisfied with it.”
The county also set aside $50,000 for the Buffalo Creek Watershed clean water project on County Ditch 15. Renville County is contributing $25,000. The Buffalo Creek Watershed District is providing matching funds of $75,000. Also approved was $5,270 for ARMER radios in Hutchinson and Silver Lake. Matching funds will be provided by each city for the cost of additional equipment. Following a busy 150th anniversary of the McLeod County Fair, during which admission was free following a $100,000 ARPA investment, another $400,000 was set aside to provide free admission for four more years.
These fund allocations were approved unanimously.
ARPA funds are federal dollars given to state, local and tribal governments hurt by the coronavirus pandemic. The $1.9 trillion stimulus bill, which was designed to aid public health and economic recovery, was signed by President Joe Biden in early 2021. McLeod County’s share was $6.9 million. Funds have been allocated to numerous expenses over the past year.