Baldwin City, Eudora leaders want to use some federal COVID-19 relief money on water, sewer projects

Baldwin City and Eudora are each slated to receive hundreds of thousands of dollars in federal COVID-19 aid soon, and leaders in both cities want to spend some of the money on improvements to their water and wastewater systems.

On Wednesday, Kansas Gov. Laura Kelly announced that more than 600 Kansas municipalities with populations of less than 50,000 would receive federal funds from the American Rescue Plan Act, a COVID-19 relief bill that Congress passed earlier this year. According to a statement released with the governor’s announcement, the state is administering the distribution of American Rescue Plan funds to the smaller cities, while the U.S. Treasury Department will disburse funds to the state’s 105 counties and 10 largest cities, including Lawrence.

Baldwin City, Eudora and Lecompton are among the small cities that will receive funding. Eudora will receive $972,591, Baldwin City will get $713,021 and Lecompton will get $99,216.

Baldwin City Administrator Glenn Rodden and Eudora City Manager Barack Matite both said they planned to spend COVID relief funds on infrastructure projects, and they specifically mentioned their cities’ water and wastewater systems.

Matite and Rodden said their cities would receive half of their allotted funding this year and the remainder in 2022, and Matite said it was his understanding that cities had until the end of 2024 to spend the money.

Rodden pointed to the replacement of aging water and sewer lines as a likely use of the funds. He said that $713,000 might not go very far toward addressing the city’s many needs, but that he wasn’t complaining about the extra relief dollars.

“The needs are endless,” Rodden said. “We’re thrilled with any federal money we get.”

Baldwin City actually expected to receive about $33,000 less that what it was allocated, Rodden said. He speculated that the difference might have resulted from the state’s determination that townships were not eligible for American Rescue Plan funding. Kelly said she would look at alternative funding sources to help townships.

The Baldwin City Council just completed a capital improvement plan update, which will provide guidance on how to spend the money, Rodden said.

In Eudora, meanwhile, city officials intend to do some more planning about how the funds will be spent. Matite said the city would develop a comprehensive plan of priority projects to fund, and that water and wastewater projects would be a high priority.

City staff is currently developing Eudora’s 2022 budget, but Matite said that wouldn’t prevent the city from spending some of the aid next year. He said the city always has more capital projects in its plans than it can afford, and that if any of those projects are identified as priorities, the COVID relief funding could be used to pay for them.

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