AMARILLO, Texas (KAMR/KCIT) — As residents from the city of Amarillo have seen the impact of the first installment of funds received from the federal government through the American Rescue Plan Act, the Amarillo City Council approved the project plan for the second installment of those funds during Tuesday’s meeting, setting in motion the funds for more improvements to occur as the city continues to recover from the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

What are the ARPA Funds?

According to previous reports from MyHighPlains.com, officials previously announced that the city of Amarillo received more than $39 million from the federal government through the ARPA. The federal government split those funds into $19.8 million allotments, the first of which was allocated in May 2021 and the second of which was allocated this month.

Officials from the city of Amarillo previously released the plans it had for the first installment of ARPA funds, which totaled more than $19.3 million in improvements throughout the city. Those projects included:

  • Revenue Recovery for City Services – $11,205,000
  • Broadband improvements – $6,000,000
  • Parks 
    • Sanborn Park Playground – $150,000
    • Thompson Park Area 4 Playground – $150,000
    • Benton Park Playground – $150,000
    • Glenwood Playground – $150,000
  • Lifepacks – $175,000
  • Paramedic Training – $258,159
  • Crime Center Equipment – $258,159
  • Coming Home Litter Crew – $250,000
  • CVB Tourism Support – $100,000
  • Senior Citizens Ventilation, Food Insecurity Assistance and Social Distancing Support – $500,000

What happened during Tuesday’s meeting?

During Tuesday’s meeting, city officials presented their plan for the second installment. The projects that make up the second installment total more than $19.8 million for improvements throughout the city. Those projects include:

  • Revenue Recovery for City Services – $14,313,919
  • Athletic Field Lighting 
    • El Alamo – $330,000
    • Martin Road Complex – $635,000
    • River Road Softball Fields – $770,000
    • Thompson Park Softball Fields – $430,000
  • Fire Department 
    • 100 sets of protective gear – $425,520
    • Five cardiac monitors – $280,000
    • 15 video laryngoscopes – $27,000
    • 15 portable medical suction devices – $12,780
  • Police Department Ventilation, Academy Rooms and Locker Room Improvements – $750,000
  • Coming Home Litter Crew (PREP Academy) – $250,000
  • Homeless Pallet Shelter – $1,113,940 
  • Senior Citizens Ventilation, Food Insecurity Assistance and social distancing support – $100,000
  • North Heights Neighborhood Plan – $100,000
  • Barrio Neighborhood Plan – $100,000
  • San Jacinto Neighborhood Plan – $100,000
  • Eastridge Neighborhood Plan – $100,000.

The majority of the second round of the ARPA allocation will also go toward revenue recovery. Like the first round, Laura Storrs, the city of Amarillo’s assistant city manager and the city’s chief financial officer, said that the city calculated the revenue recovery figure using a formula provided by the federal government.

“One of the areas of the ARPA funding is that they did allow cities to go back and calculate lost revenue that occurred during the pandemic year, so during the calendar year 2020 and during the calendar year 2021,” she said. “They gave a formula on what that would look like. So, the city of Amarillo was able to go back and capture some of the ARPA funds and bring them into the general fund to account for some of the lost revenue that we saw during the pandemic.”

Storrs said that this helps keeps the city’s general fund healthy. But because the city did not have to reach into its reserves throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, these revenue recovery funds will create some excess cash in the general fund. Storrs said this excess cash will give the city the ability to pay for one-time projects out in the community, which city officials will ultimately make decisions about when the budget process for the next fiscal year begins in July.

Storrs told the council during Tuesday’s meeting that this will be a chance to fund various projects heard about during meetings or from community members that are of great need within the Amarillo community.

One of the projects mentioned during the meeting was the St. Anthony’s Senior Housing project, a project which was previously authorized under the ARPA funds. Storrs said that because of the strict federal regulations on the ARPA funds, the city could use some of the excess funds to pay for some of the housing project.

“The thought process would be instead to take some funding from excess cash and general fund to provide those same dollars instead of the direct ARPA allocation to allow that project a little more flexibility and help them to be successful in the overall project,” she said.

Other projects funded through this second allocation include those that have been frequently talked about during previous council meetings. The Amarillo City Council previously issued debt to fund updates to Athletic Field Lighting throughout the city, but opted to use a portion of the second allocation of the ARPA funds to go towards that project.

Storrs said those projects are scheduled to begin throughout the city sooner rather than later.

“On this new athletic field lighting, we have to go through a bid process, and we just opened up the bids this past week, so we’re evaluating those. What we are hoping to do is to start construction on those this summer and on into the fall months,” she said. “We are going to work strategically around the athletic events that are going on in those facilities. We don’t want to interrupt play, but we know that this is an important thing that’s going to be a huge win for our community.”

The city also allocated $400,000 in extra money towards the four neighborhood plans the city has in place, including the Barrio plan, the Eastridge plan, the North Heights plan and the San Jacinto plan. Storrs said after the city saw that the initial seed money for these plans was put to good use, the council chose to give them some more money for various projects.

“We’re really excited to see what those groups bring forward and the projects that will take place in those particular neighborhoods,” she said.

What do city of Amarillo officials hope the impact of the project will be in the future?

Since it was announced that the city would be receiving more than $39 million of ARPA funds, Amarillo Mayor Ginger Nelson stressed how much conversation has gone into spending these funds, from hosting public meetings to talking with other area lawmakers on what these funds should be spent on.

Overall, Nelson said she is appreciative of what the staff and the council have done to spend these funds on projects she believes will have “a long-term impact in how they benefit citizens’ lives.”

“I think every time we’ve touched the ARPA funds, we’ve all recognized that we’re sitting on council during a very unique time. We’ve never had a funding drop from the federal government like this before, not in our lifetimes anyway,” Nelson said. “We’ve said that we wanted them to be generational impacts, like if this is a once-in-a-lifetime funding opportunity, then we wanted to be stewarding it in a way that it would create a once-in-a-lifetime impact for more than one generation… I do think I can see the generational impact in the way that we’re spending these dollars. And that, I think, is good stewardship on our part as far as casting a vision.”

For more information on how the city plans to spend its ARPA funds, visit the city of Amarillo’s website.