Metro Council OKs $79M ‘healthy neighborhoods’ COVID-19 spending plan
A proposal to spend roughly $79 million in federal COVID-19 relief on expanding libraries, parks and other neighborhood services gained final approval from Louisville Metro Council Thursday nght.
This will be the fourth round of American Rescue Plan Act spending for Louisville, which received roughly $390 million from the pandemic relief program approved by Congress last year.
The city now has about $61 million left. Officials are planning to spend the final chunk on workforce development, but the specifics are still being negotiated.
The spending approved Thursday focused on “healthy neighborhoods” and aimed to increase access to city services, green spaces and child care.
District 9 Council Member Bill Hollander, a Democrat and chair of the Budget Committee, said at the council meeting this is the city’s largest investment in resources to benefit its youngest residents.
“There are historic investments in this proposal for youth, both early learning efforts and the Office of Youth Development,” Hollander said. “We see this as a public safety effort, because we know that to address our public safety issues in the community we have to start working and dealing with youth at a younger age.”
Council members allocated $9.6 million for renovating and expanding the Portland and Parkland libraries, as well as the main Louisville Free Public Library branch.
They set aside another $5 million for reopening a library branch in the Fern Creek area. Officials have said that the branch will ideally be further down Bardstown Road than the previous building, acknowledging a growing population in southeast Jefferson County. During budget cuts in 2019, the Fern Creek and Middletown branches were shuttered by the city.
At a Metro Council Budget Committee meeting last week, LFPL Director Lee Burchfield said renovations to the Portland Library could be done by the fall. Since city officials are still in the process of closing on a property in Fern Creek, Burchfield said residents shouldn’t expect that library to open until the end of next year.
“The variable that we don’t control [with Fern Creek] is that there’s an active business on one of those parcels,” he said. “That has to get resolved. And then we have some demolition to do there, particularly with an abandoned building that may have some remediation that needs to be done.”
A significant portion of the $73 million will also go toward improving neighborhood parks.
That includes $2.5 million to restore the pond in Chickasaw Park, which is the only flat water recreational amenity for residents living in west Louisville, and $200,000 for renovations to Berrytown Park. The tennis court complex at Iroquois Park will also get a $500,000 facelift.
Along with historic preservation work on the Baxter Community Center, city officials will look to create a new public park nearby at the corner of 13th Street and West Muhammad Ali Boulevard.
District 4 Council Member Jecorey Arthur, a Democrat who represents parts of the Russell neighborhood, where the community center is located, said at a recent meeting that residents could use more programming and public amenities.
“It’s a recreational facility that the Russell neighborhood, the Beecher Terrace residents desperately need re-opening,” he said.
Louisville Metro officials have said the Baxter Community Center is not expected to reopen until the end of next year.
Other projects marked for funding include:
- $10 million for environmental remediation at the Rhodia brownfields in west Louisville
- $5 million for renovations to the Norton and Algonquin public pools
- $2 million for improving broadband internet access across Jefferson County
- $7.5 million for the ongoing COVID-19 response and vaccination drives
- $8.5 million to create a Youth Development System and expand youth programming and resources
- $7.5 million to expand access to child care