AMARILLO, Texas (KAMR/KCIT) — On Monday, the Potter County Commissioners Court unanimously approved a plan to spend its first installment of American Rescue Plan Act funding.

In total, Potter County will receive $22 million in ARPA funds. Out of the $12.8 million in the first installment, the county plans to spend $5.43 million.

The first project will be upgrading the HVAC system at the Santa Fe Building for $958,175.

The second focus will be on cybersecurity upgrades, to avoid another ransomware attack, like the one Potter County suffered in April of 2019.

That includes $192,000 for cybersecurity upgrades, broadband, and other projects. Plus, $657,000 for IT infrastructure enhancement, and $1,115,093 for VxRail, which is for disaster recovery and cybersecurity.

“You wouldn’t think there’d be that much for cybersecurity, but there’s a lot of little detail-oriented things that we have to purchase to make sure that everything else is covered,” Potter County Judge Nancy Tanner said on Monday. “And so we’re gonna going to do that, because we don’t want that to ever, ever happen again. And so hopefully, by doing this, it won’t happen again.”

John Kiehl, a consultant to Potter County, said cybersecurity was a priority for the committee making recommendations to the commission.

“That really is important to all residents of Potter County. They need to understand any of their records could be accessed or hacked if they’re not securely protected. So having a good system of cybersecurity on their network is important to everybody inside and outside of the county,” said Kiehl.

Kiehl said another priority for the county is investing in the Potter County Detention Center.

The booking room will be renovated for $1.5 million, and the air handler will be replaced for $250,000.

“What has transpired with the pandemic, and we’ve seen the increases in drug use, and that leads to all sorts of things that bring people into contact with law enforcement is to make accommodations at the jail, for instance, to protect the people that occupied those facilities, they needed to get some new ventilation equipment going in the jail so that was a big issue” Kiehl added. “Same thing with the Santa Fe building, the HVAC system there is about at the end of its life, and it needs to be replaced. And of course, that helps to keep good circulation and ventilation going in the building.”

Installment 1 projects also include $500,000 for low St. Anthony’s low-income housing, $73,000 for a provisional chiller at the district courts building, and $186,000 for administrative expenses.

Judge Tanner said the ARPA funds will help the county recover some of what was lost in the first two years of the Coronavirus pandemic, without using taxpayer money.

“We are doing the best we can to use this money for things that we would ordinarily go to them for,” Tanner said. “So, it’s saving some money, in the long run, to get the county up and running like it’s supposed to be, with some enhancements.”

In the second installment of funds, the county will spend $106,000 for new budgeting software in the county auditor’s office and $3 million on government services.

Kiehl said the county will have until the end of 2024 to earmark the funds, and until the end of 2026 to spend them.

“The commissioner’s court pretty much committed about $5.4 million today out of that first bucket. Bucket two, which is going to be the easiest to spend, they actually have another fiscal year to go through before they have to commit all that funding,” Kiehl said. “So, who knows what this next year is going to bring? So, it may well be that they just wait and see until this next year to see if there’s anything else that crops up that would help them with some budgetary issues next year.”

Tanner said the county will also set money aside for local nonprofit organizations.

“There’s a lot of nonprofits that have come to us and so some won’t get as much as the other. We’re trying to make it fair, but there are some who need it more than others,” she said. “I think I had a list of about 45 nonprofits and that gives me a good feeling to know that we’re going to help them out.”