A new ordinance appropriating the city of Kokomo’s American Rescue Plan money reduces the City Council’s role from a voting member on proposed projects to just an advisory role.
The council voted unanimously Monday to approve on first reading a newly written ordinance that appropriates the city’s $19,893,216 American Rescue Plan funds and details how the city will come up with projects to spend the money. Councilman Jason Acord was not present at the meeting.
The council tabled a previous ordinance in early August. That ordinance is nearly exactly the same compared to the new ordinance, save for one difference: The council’s power to approve or torpedo a proposed ARP project has been removed.
In the previous ordinance, any project using ARP money would first require a “joint written authorization” from the mayor and one designated member from the City Council chosen to speak for the board before the money is disbursed, giving the council power in approving or disapproving projects.
Under the newly written ordinance, up to four council members shall meet with the mayor on a bi-weekly basis to “consult and advise as to projects initiated by the City of Kokomo in accordance with ARP. If the ordinance passes as written, the city administration will have final say on how the unprecedented flush of federal cash will be spent.
And some council members believe that’s how it should be.
Councilman Tom Miklik, R-District 6, said he believes the original ordinance gave “too much control” to council — whose primary role is approving annual budgets, resolutions and ordinances — over approval or disapproval of ARP projects.
“The City Council will approve funding, but we’re not responsible for the projects he picks, we’re not responsible for how he implements it,” he said. “That’s not our role. ... If the mayor includes our opinion I think it’s up to us to share our opinion with him, but it’s ultimately the mayor’s decision on how he runs the city.”
The city has not yet publicly announced what ARP projects it has planned.
As written, the city’s ARP Fund Plan doesn’t list specific projects but, instead, copies and pastes the acceptable use of the funds as specified by the ARP and Department of the Treasury’s Interim Final Ruling, including responding to public health needs and economic damage from the pandemic, financial assistance, covering revenue shortfalls caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, investments in water, sewer or broadband infrastructure and more.