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City needs to redraw some plans for federal COVID-19 money

The City of Wichita Falls will have to go back to the drawing board to spend some of its $29.1 million from the American Rescue Plan Act.

Deputy City Manager Paul Menzies told city council members Tuesday that the feds are steadily refining restrictions on the use of the cash.

“Federal guidance keeps changing, and that’s certainly been the case since you adopted this plan,” Menzies said.

Projects that didn’t make the cut included $1.5 million to go toward the $11 million price tag for new fire trucks.

“This is no longer allowed in driving,” Menzies said.

He said the trucks have already been ordered and should be delivered in the next six months. The profit plan on them will remain the same despite the loss of federal dollars.

The board had also set aside $2.325 million for future capital infrastructure and future capital equipment, but the federal government reversed those expenses as well.

The city had invested $1.65 million in future budget requests and “To Be Announced.”

That means the city has a total of about $5.5 million to spend on something else. Funds must be allocated by the end of 2024 and projects must be completed by the end of 2026.

Menzies said budget planning for fiscal 2024 would be “a good time to address it.”

City Manager Darron Leiker said the city had a few projects on its initial wish list that didn’t make the cut and could be reconsidered for the remaining money.

Mayor Stephen Santellana has suggested holding some of the money in contingency for possible cost overruns on other projects, such as City Hall renovations.

“I can only see it intensifying,” she said.

The largest portion of ARPA’s money – $12 million – was awarded to improve the building that houses the city offices and the Memorial Auditorium.

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