The Howard County Commissioners last week approved an update to the county’s plan for American Rescue Plan money, adding to it the purchase of security cameras for county buildings, new vehicles for the highway department and more.

The updates come a little less than a year after the commissioners approved their initial ARP plan where they allocated $12.6 million of the little more than $16 million the county received from the federal stimulus package.

This update now allocates all of the county’s ARP funds, Commissioner Paul Wyman said.

Notable additions include:

• $340,000 for renovations to the restrooms and kitchen and Howard Haven Residential Center, living facility for older and disabled citizens, whose financial and/or physical abilities limit their independence.
• $703,000 to undertake certain security, IT and software upgrades for use by the county government. That includes fitting all county buildings with security cameras and creating a centralized location where all cameras will be viewable. Additionally, the county is upgrading an antiquated security system to a “state of the art” security system at the Howard County Jail.
• $547,400 for renovations to the Howard County Administrative Center, 220 N. Main St. Wyman said many of the offices in the building have not been renovated in 20-30 years and now will be thanks to ARP money.
• $409,360 to purchase updated equipment for the Highway Department. The county has already allocated nearly $2 million for renovations to the Highway Department’s main building and to purchase a new backhoe and service truck, but Wyman said there’s even more equipment that needs updated within the department.

Wyman reiterated what he’s been saying since last August in that the ARP money has allowed the county to tackle several different projects that would have been paid for with local money.

“We really took the $16 million and impacted broad groups,” Wyman said. “What I mean by that is there’s something in here that’s benefited taxpayers directly, there’s things in here that have benefited nonprofits, there’s things in here that benefit the private sector and there’s things in here that benefit government. And we really took these dollars and spread them out to have maximum impact and maximum lasting impact, and that’s probably what I’m most proud of here in this plan.”

All in all, the county is spending its ARP money, sorted by allowable category, in this way:

• Responding to COVID-19 public health and emergency — $4,145,084
• Responding to negative economic impacts of COVID19 — $1,872,555
• Provision of government services to extent of reduction in revenue — $4,515,565
•Water, sewer and broadband infrastructure development — $5,500,000
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