Published on November 14th, 2021 📆 | 4830 Views ⚑0
Technology and software updates main priority for American Rescue Plan funds
Nov. 13—CHEYENNE — Technology and software upgrades made up more than half of the proposals presented Friday to Cheyenne City Council during the final work session dedicated to the distribution American Rescue Plan Act funds.
Cheyenne is set to receive $12.2 million from the $1.9 trillion COVID-19 federal stimulus package passed earlier this year by Congress. The federal funding is intended to support municipalities, local businesses, educational institutions and others suffering from the impacts of the pandemic.
City Council has been working with city department heads over the past three weeks to create a list of projects to benefit local government functions and its constituents. Seventy-six proposals have been brought forward totaling close to $23 million.
Many of the projects will likely go unfunded by the American Rescue Plan funding simply because there isn’t enough money to go around. Only $7.45 million of the original amount remains due to previous allocations for personnel and cost cuts made during pandemic shutdowns.
“As it seems always, there are far more requests than funding available,” said City Council member Jeff White. “But the amount of funding that we have available is a gift, and therefore it’s up to council to be diligent in our next steps.”
The last departments to present were the City Treasurer, City Clerk, Compliance Division, City Attorney, Youth Alternatives, and Community Recreation and Events. A representative from the Greater Cheyenne Greenway also made a funding request, but the playground project had close ties to the recreation department.
Although there was a proposal for technology and equipment for general needs, many individual departments had their own additional related requests. Of the 26 total projects introduced Friday, 15 covered tech.
This comes after a high demand for technology updates following a virtual-driven year and the closure of the Municipal Building last month due to a boiler problem. According to local government officials, network upgrades, laptops, media systems and speakers are all important tools for communicating and managing the workload.
“We’re finding out that we are going to have to make some bigger-picture changes for the long haul of supporting this technology,” said city Grants Manager Renee Smith.
Outside of just equipment, new software to make government more accessible and support operations has also been considered essential. Many departments requested funding for new programs over the past three weeks, but six software and database proposals were put forward on Friday alone.
The City Treasurer is interested in $37,500 for software that would encourage spending transparency. The ClearGov database provides access for constituents to view the city’s “checkbook” in real time, which Smith said is a consistent demand from the treasurer’s office.
“They do receive a lot of requests from Cheyenne residents looking for financial information, specifically on how we’re spending our money,” she said. “It’s under quite a bit of a microscope, especially when we’re going and asking for money from citizens.”
Another software considered important for the community is a $25,000 case management software for Youth Alternatives. This would allow remote access to case files and increase government efficiency. The department currently has nothing along these lines, which made managing cases away from the office difficult.
Working remotely was also a challenge brought up by City Clerk Kris Jones, who requested a $33,000 agenda management software program. During the pandemic, she said, there were delays in receiving and processing agenda documents due to the agency and its employees operating from home. The requested software would also decrease the necessity for as many paper documents.
“As the times are changing,” Jones said, “I think we can get away from a lot of the paper.”
She also said after the recent discovery of problems with boiler and HVAC systems in the Municipal Building, many officials will be working out of the office and will need to submit their items online.
Although technology requests took up most of the conversation Friday, there were also projects introduced for recreation and the Greater Cheyenne Greenway. Millions of dollars were requested to cover the costs of Lions Park upgrades, ballfield lighting and the replacement of playground equipment.
Greenway and Parks Planner Jean Vetter was one of the advocates for recreation spending, and said there are 32 playgrounds located in Cheyenne, 15 of which are over a decade and a half old. She said many are usually updated before the decade is up.
“I think COVID has really shown that people are out and about outdoors, and using these parks,” Vetter said. “And I think several of these playgrounds are really a safety issue for kids.”
These are the last of the projects to be seen by the City Council before decisions are made about how the money will be spent. The funding has to be used by 2026, but the reporting period is in January for the grants manager, according to Smith.
Mayor Patrick Collins and council members are set to reconvene in the coming weeks and finalize their priorities.
Jasmine Hall is the Wyoming Tribune Eagle’s education reporter. She can be reached by email at [email protected] or by phone at 307-633-3167. Follow her on Twitter @jasminerhphotos and on Instagram @jhrose25.