It will be a dubious list that no governmental entity in the nation will want to be included on in a decade.

During the annual Business Outlook luncheon at the Anderson Rotary Club this past week, an economist commented on a question asking how American Rescue Plan funds should be spent.

Charles Trzcinka with Indiana University said in five or 10 years, there will be a discussion on how local units of government spent the influx of federal dollars.

He said there will be a list of those governmental bodies that wisely spent the funds on infrastructure and quality-of-life projects and a list of those that didn’t use the money for the public good.

“Be careful with it,” Trzcinka said. “It won’t be coming again. Select projects that benefit everyone.”

That’s pretty good advice with local officials with Madison County communities receiving approximately $100 million over the next two years.

Suggestions from the panelists included training workers with 21st century skills that will attract more high paying jobs.

Another was investments in early childhood education and quality child care.

Also mentioned was job training for advanced manufacturing and the ability of employees to work with robots and sophisticated computer equipment.

All are commendable recommendations and worthy of consideration. Maybe communities in Madison and surrounding counties can partner on projects that will benefit everyone.

Could Pendleton and Anderson combine on an anticipated frontage road running along Interstate 69?

Maybe some of the funding can help JobSource move forward with the local Family Scholar House program to help single parents get an education and find better employment opportunities.

The cities could use the funding to demolish abandoned housing, perhaps in a large area, and construct affordable housing, which is desperately needed.

Anderson could provide the funds for the construction of the proposed food pantry where the police substation once sat. The property has been donated to a local organization for that purpose.

As of this week, only Madison County has moved forward with a plan to distribute the funds to county offices.

A scoring system will be implemented with the Madison County Council of Governments scoring each proposal and sending recommendations to the county commissioners and council.

That’s a start, but any process should include input from the public, either through public hearings or appointments to whatever system is adopted to determine how the funds are utilized.

The process should not be left up to elected officials alone. Community members have a stake in how the funds will be spent over the next few years.

Ten years from now, which list will Madison County communities be included on? Hopefully it will be the list that shows elected officials and community members made decisions benefiting everyone.
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