LUZERNE COUNTY (WBRE/WYOU) — Luzerne County officials divvied up almost $30 million in American Rescue Plan money between the county’s most pressing needs.
This is only a fraction of what the county will receive from the American Rescue Plan. Council held off on making decisions until they had final rule on the federal guidelines for spending. Tuesday night they discussed spending American Rescue Plan funds on small businesses, tech, repairs to the jail, and the Water Street Bridge.
Tuesday night Luzerne County Council voted on how they should spend $29.74 million of American Rescue Plan funds based on acting county manager Romilda Crocamo’s recommendations. But first, several county officials and members of the public urged council to proceed with caution, until the county hires a permanent manager.
“There’s $25 million, it’s not…That our acting county manager Romilda Crocamo to pass it out however she feels. She is temporary acting county manager,” Ted Fitzgerald said.
Council voted to table the resolution to use $20 million in ARP funds for small businesses and $5 million for non-profit. This would have put Greater Hazleton Can Do, Greater Wyoming Valley Chamber of Commerce and Penn’s Northeast in charge of distributing the money.
Council passed the resolution to use $2.5 million for information technology projects. The biggest chunk of that is going to virtual infrastructure upgrades, followed by cybersecurity, then networking equipment.
“We have to support the I.T. department if we expect to be successful,” council member Tim McGinley said.
Council then authorized $1.5 million for repairs at Luzerne County Correctional Facility. Correctional services division head Mark Rockovich says they need that money to replace the out-of-date fire panel system, replace the elevators and replace the roof. Next, $750,000 to inspect the century-old Water Street Bridge.
But county engineer Larry Plesh said the inspection would tell them if the bridge can be repaired and reopened with a weight limit, or if it needs to stay closed. Plesh said it’s not likely the bridge can be fixed. Council voted to table it.
“In my personal opinion it would be better spent…table the money and push for the replacement and get the answer from PennDOT on which direction they’re going with their bridge and go that way,” Plesh said.
Luzerne County is getting $113 million from the American Rescue Plan.