City officials say two future infrastructure projects could potentially utilize federal COVID funds to help lower the city’s financial obligation.
The city received $12.7 million from the federal government as a result of the 2020 COVID-19 pandemic. The city has earmarked $2.7 million for an eligible project and has engaged Baker Tilly Municipal Advisors to help choose which project best meets the federal ARPA requirements. 
Assistant City Manager Wyatt Thompson says one of the projects that appears to meet that criteria is the city’s planned Anderson Avenue water main replacement project, from Harris to Connecticut Avenue.
“The total estimated cost of the project is around $7 million. So obviously our $2.7 million of ARPA would pretty much cover what we would estimate for the utility portion and then other potential water, street and stormwater funds would make up that difference,” he said.
The phased project would likely take 12-18 months to complete and would begin construction sometime next year. 
The other project under consideration involves upgrades to the lime sludge lagoons near the city’s water treatment plant, which is estimated to be around $3.5 million.
“We currently have secured a KDHE loan that would be paid back with the water fund. That has been our approach to pay for the project. Obviously ARPA could take the place of some of those funds, lessen the loan amount and reduce that impact on the water fund to pay back that total loan,” he said.
Mayor Wynn Butler says he prefers throwing the money at the Anderson project and utilizing a  KDHE loan on the lagoon project, with an interest rate around 2%. 
“I’m looking at where you can save the money on interest and it seems to me we’d be smarter to put this on Anderson and take the KDHE loan, because I doubt a bank is going to give us an interest rate that low,” he said.
Thompson says they’ll await guidance from Baker Tilly before coming back to the city with a recommendation. No action was required from the city commission Tuesday. ARPA funds must be obligated by the end of this year and spent by Dec. 31, 2026.

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