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New money for parks, libraries and language access policy on Metro Council agenda

Thursday night, Louisville Metro Council is expected to take final action on an $80 million spending plan for some of the roughly $390 million federal dollars the city is getting in COVID-19 relief, as well as a measure that would help non-English speakers better access city services and resources. 

Those items and more are on the agenda for Metro Council’s meeting starting at 6 p.m. 

One proposal from Democratic Metro Council Members, Jecorey Arthur of District 4 and Nicole George of District 21, would create a new language access policy for Louisville Metro Government. All city departments would be required to start working toward ensuring applications, permits and live assistance are available to people who speak a language other than English, whether that's through hiring bilingual employees or third-party translation services. The departments would have one year to create their plans. 

More than 70,000 Louisvillians are foreign-born and the city’s immigrant population grew by 35.5% over the last decade, according to U.S. Census Bureau data. Arthur said that the city has only done the “bare minimum” to serve that population of residents.

“I truly believe that if we don't at least offer language access services, City Hall, Metro Hall, LMPD, Public Works — any agency department or office — is being exclusionary,” he said. 

Arthur said forcing city departments to create language access policies will ensure all residents can obtain things like business permits, utility assistance and housing resources. 

According to Jefferson County Public Schools, there are more than 150 languages spoken in Louisville. 

New COVID relief spending aimed at ‘healthy neighborhoods’

Metro Council will also vote Thursday night on the city’s fourth round of American Rescue Plan Act spending. The pandemic relief funding coming to Louisville Metro was approved by the U.S. Congress last year.

The $80 million proposal on the table would set aside funding for renovating and expanding libraries, making improvements to public parks and expanding residents’ access to childcare. City officials have grouped the projects under the umbrella of “healthy neighborhoods.”

Mayor Greg Fischer and a bipartisan group of Metro Council members released the spending plan last month. During a press conference, Fischer said many of the projects have been in the works for years, but have lacked a source of funding until now.

“These investments represent transformational changes in many neighborhoods throughout Louisville, and it’s an opportunity to convert a list of projects we always hoped we could do into reality,” Fischer said.

The proposal includes $5.8 million to reopen the Parkland and Fern Creek libraries, $5 million for renovations to the Norton and Algonquin public pools and $6 million to expand the Baxter Community Center and create a new public park nearby. It would provide three years of funding for a ‘youth development system’ focused on providing new programming and resources for residents ages 10-24, estimated to cost around $8 million.

The city has already appropriated funding for eviction diversion and vaccination outreach, as well as police reforms and affordable housing. This latest proposal would leave $53 million for workforce development projects still under discussion.

A study on development near Floyds Fork

A resolution directing the city’s Planning & Design Department to review the rules and regulations for new construction around Floyds Fork is expected to be approved by the full Metro Council. 

The proposal, which is sponsored by a bipartisan group of four council members, is meant to address concerns about housing developments near the 62-mile long waterway, 30 miles of which runs through south Jefferson County. 

“Floyds Fork is currently our cleanest and most biodiverse creek in the entire county,” said District 8 Council Member Cassie Chambers Armstrong, one of the resolution’s sponsors. “It is a rare natural resource that we have, and it’s one that we should all care about protecting.

The proposed resolution would require city plans to look at potential changes to the Land Development Code, an 800-page document that outlines how property in Louisville Metro can be used and developed. Any changes would have to be based on the South Floyds Fork Vision Plan that Metro Council approved in 2020 after a years-long planning and public engagement process. 

City planners will also look at whether a development review overlay committee, made up of environmental experts and residents, should be created for the Floyds Fork area.

Roberto Roldan is the City Politics and Government Reporter for WFPL. Email Roberto at rroldan@lpm.org.

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