All in all, Wapello County will receive nearly $ 6.8 million, about half of which goes to Ottumwa. The first allocation will arrive “shortly,” said Lazio. With the city receiving roughly $ 1.8 million each from the US bailout plan over the next two years, city administrator Philip Rath and Mayor Tom Lazio held a listening session with a handful of residents on Thursday at the Bridge View Center on ideas like that money can be output.
“This is one-time money, so it’s not something where we have to create a new job and have to fund it all the time,” said Rath. “And that will take place over several months. What we want to do is use the money for things that bring us more money for the money, but still stay within the rules. “
However, the money cannot be spent on everything. The funds can be used as direct cash or loans, business and nonprofit support, housing and community development, homelessness, childcare and education, and other areas. The subject areas are broad, the federal guidelines remain fluid.
One of the most popular ideas comes from Sheriff Don Phillips. Phillips had held discussions with the board of directors, and the city council had discussed a new computerized dispatch system (CAD) that would bring all the emergency units in the county together so that all information could be exchanged between departments.
“The system we have is 20 years old and this could be a golden opportunity to spend that money,” said Phillips. “Most of our job is to share information. We looked at a system in Marshalltown in July and we really liked it.
“This is a unique opportunity for both the city and the county to work together on something. That saves time and would be better. We can see what the police did the night before and who they worked with and vice versa. “
Tim Richmond, director of emergency management for the county, works with all or most of the emergency services and believed a sharing system was essential.
Lazio agreed that the money would be well spent. Phillips estimated that a new system would cost around $ 500,000 but was optimistic that the county and city could share in all of the costs.
“Think a CAD is a central brain for all areas of public service,” he said. “It’s centralized intelligence. This software contains this information. Back when things weren’t that complicated, the dispatcher, all that stuff, but our society is too big and too busy for that. That’s why we need software that helps us do this. “
“In Marshalltown they found it to work very well, and when you see someone using the system, you grow up a bit like, ‘Why can’t we use this?'” Lazio said. “You can just pop it up there and see everything you have in your story.”
Other ideas were the park and path facilities, a new cemetery office and the need for childcare.
“Recovery from the pandemic will take a lot and our workforce is affected,” said resident Krista Tedrow. “Maybe we can see what ideas there are to develop more daycare centers, or if we can join forces with the state to get a block grant. I think we need that to move forward. “
David Cecil, chairman of the city’s parks council, believed now was a good time to upgrade the amenities in Greater Ottumwa Park.
“Our shower house is very inadequate and the campers out there are talking about who has good facilities and who doesn’t,” he said. “We have a lot of things going on there and we have people who want them to look good. Upgrading wouldn’t cost millions of dollars, but it would make us a more desirable place to come and stay. “
Others spoke of helping local animal shelters, particularly funding the renovation of Mary Margaret Butler’s Whatsoever You Do women’s and children’s home on Iowa Avenue.
“Getting a response during school pick-up or drop-off is scary,” said Richmond.
Local residents also spoke of some of the busier intersections in the city and the difficulty of making some turns, improving directional signs, and clearing traffic jams along Mary Street at Liberty Elementary School, especially if the fire department took that street for you at peak times call up.
“We’re looking for things that last a while and are an investment in the community,” he said. “Like childcare or new apartments. That will help build our future tax base. These are things that will help fix bigger problems. “
Whatever the city decides to spend the money will go before the council, Rath said, and the money will be part of future capital improvement plans and possibly address parts of the overall 2040 plan.
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