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Mayor updates Kokomo on ARP projects

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UPCOMING — a rendering of Kokomo’s proposed new event center. Some ARP and READI funds wil be used on the project.

Kokomo Mayor Tyler Moore updated the city on projects being funded by the American Rescue Plan Act at last Monday’s Kokomo Common Council meeting.

In addition to ARP money, the city is hoping to use funding awarded from Indiana’s Regional Economic Acceleration and Development Initiative (READI) to aid in the cost of several projects. Howard County applied for $50 million in READI funding, in tandem with several other counties in central Indiana, and Moore said they should know whether they will receive that money by the end of the year.

Moore said the long-anticipated hotel and conference center project is No. 1 on the agenda. He plans for the project to use about $3 million out of the $19.8 million ARP fund. Another $5 million from the READI fund would be used to supplement additional costs.

“We’re crossing our fingers and staying optimistic that we’re going to be turning dirt sometime next year,” Moore said. “The availability of the READI fund and the ARP funds allows us to comfortably provide the incentives to the developer so they stay actively engaged with the project.”

Matt Grecu, president of the Kokomo Common Council, said it is important to note the city’s money will be spent solely on the conference center. The conference center and hotel will be built together, but the cost of the hotel will fall to the developer.

Another item on the ARP funding list is revenue replacement. The city controller looked into Kokomo’s finances to determine how much money has been lost from the city’s general revenue due to the pandemic.

General revenue refers to income from various taxes like income tax, sales tax and property tax, but excludes utilities. Another $3.6 million from the ARP fund will be used to replace city revenue lost due to the pandemic.

Moore said the money used for revenue replacement will allow the city to work on other projects that have been overlooked over the past year and a half.

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“[It] frees up the opportunity to work on additional infrastructure, park upgrades, and other things we’ve kind of had to put on the side burner,” Moore said.

Another $5 million from the ARP fund will be used to finance water and waste at the industrial park. The Greater Kokomo Economic Development Alliance has hoped to attract more employers to Kokomo for a few years by building an industrial park in the city. The city will utilize READI funding in addition to ARP funds to build the park.

“Another project we’ve talked about to great lengths is the industrial park. We’re getting close to closing on ground for that,” Moore said. “One of the permitted uses for [ARP funds] is infrastructure, like water and waste. There’s a pretty high sticker dollar being proposed for infrastructure for the park, so it’s an opportunity to use these ARP funds for that.”

The city also plans to spend $700,000 on Ivy Tech’s Industry 4.0 training lab, to aid Kokomo with workforce development, and another $281,000 on lighting around the trails at Jackson Morrow Park.

Moore said he also wants to take action to solve flooding issues on the roads around the Stellantis plant. In addition to ARP funding, the city is working with Stellantis and has applied for a $562,500 Swift Grant to help fund this project.

Lastly, Moore said the city is considering using $60,000 of the ARP fund to create a permitted use kitchen for the Kokomo Farmers’ Market to spur economic growth.

After the cost of current projects is deducted from Kokomo’s ARP funds, the city still will have more than $7 million left in ARP funding.

Moore wanted to reassure residents the city is evaluating other projects that could help underserved areas in Kokomo, and looking into developing an assistance plan for individuals and businesses suffering from the pandemic.

“We still are considering some type of assistance, either for individuals, small businesses, or nonprofits,” Moore said. “We just need to look at what those programs may look like and what the need would be for those various groups.”