Drainage and law enforcement top Broome spending priorities for federal pandemic relief funds

(iStock)

Mayor Sharon Weston Broome has announced her plan for spending the next batch of federal funds headed to Baton Rouge courtesy of the American Rescue Plan.

Among the big ticket items in the $73 million allocation are:

• $20 million for drainage improvements such as clearing out canals, pipes and ditches. That’s in addition to the $22 million in ARP funds allocated to drainage projects in late July. “ We’re taking what we are already doing and giving it a shot in the arm,” says Broome spokesman Mark Armstrong.

• $14.2 million for law enforcement and crime fighting, including $8 million to replace aging marked and unmarked police department vehicles; $3.3 million to implement gun violence reduction strategies such as community policing; and $1.8 million to upgrade technology.

• $9.6 million to replace and upgrade technology and vehicles for firefighters and first responders.

Why it matters: This kind of “free” money doesn’t come around very often. Broome’s plan targets two of the biggest problems plaguing the community—flooding/drainage and crime. The question is whether it will be enough to make a difference?

So far, the administration says it has. Of the $22 million allocated in July to drainage projects, the city-parish has spent nearly 10% already clearing out 3.9 million pounds of sediment from Baton Rouge  storm drains and pipes.

There’s more. Plenty of other programs and projects around the parish are also in line to receive hefty allocations from the federal pandemic fund. They include:

• $6 million to fund construction of a mixed use, low- and moderate-income housing development called Housing for Heroes;

• $4 million to provide one-time premium pay to city-parish workers deemed essential during the six-week pandemic shutdown in 2020;

• $4 million to upgrade the HVAC systems in various city-parish facilities.

• $2 million to upgrade the first and second police precincts;

• $2 million for economic development and tourism, which was hit hard by the pandemic.

What’s to come: The $73 million plan, when taken with the $22 million allocated earlier this year for drainage, totals $95 million, or, slightly more than half the total $165.4 million Baton Rouge will receive from the ARP.

The current spending plan will be introduced at Wednesday’s Metro Council meeting but won’t be voted on until Oct. 27.