Louisville officials propose $80 million spending plan to reopen libraries and expand child care – 89.3 WFPL News Louisville

Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer and a bipartisan group of Metro Council members released a proposal on Tuesday to spend nearly $80 million in federal pandemic relief on neighborhood projects ranging from improving parks to new library branches.

If approved, it would be the city’s fourth round of spending of the roughly $390 million it received from the American Rescue Plan Act, passed by Congress last year.

The Louisville Metro has already allocated funds for deportation diversion and vaccination awarenessas well as police reforms and affordable housing. The latest proposal would leave $53 million for workforce development projects that are still under discussion.

The spending plan released Tuesday calls for $51.8 million for “healthy neighborhoods,” including $5.8 million to reopen Parkland and Fern Creek libraries and $6 million to expand the Baxter Community Center and create a new public park nearby.

“These investments represent transformational change to many neighborhoods in Louisville, and it’s an opportunity to transform a slate of projects we’ve always hoped we could achieve,” Fischer said.

The Healthy Neighborhoods proposals also include $7.5 million to expand access to quality child care options throughout Jefferson County.

Metro District 8 board member Cassie Chambers Armstrong, a Democrat, said the funding could be used to provide small loans to create new early learning centers and improve existing playgrounds. Chamber Armstrong sponsored an order, recently approved by the Metro Councilthat loosens daycare zoning restrictions.

“This [proposal] is a significant step forward for the youngest children in our city,” she said Tuesday.

Here are some other healthy neighborhood projects that could get funding:

  • $10 million for the environmental remediation of Rhodia’s brownfields in West Louisville
  • $8 million to renovate and expand the main branch of the Louisville Free Public Library downtown
  • $5 million for the renovation of Norton and Algonquin public swimming pools
  • $2 million to improve high-speed Internet access in Jefferson County
  • $2.5 million to restore Chickasaw Pond for community use
  • $2 million to create an electronic records system for Louisville Metro Public Health and Wellness

The proposal would also cover projects to improve programming and resources for young people in Louisville.

Officials want to spend $8.5 million to develop a youth development system, overseen by the Office of Safe and Healthy Neighborhoods (OSHN), for residents ages 10 to 24. It would coordinate all of the city’s youth-focused nonprofits and manage a new fund to provide grants to these organizations.

Council Member Jecorey Arthur, a Democrat representing District 4, said the funding would help more parents connect to available services.

“I’ve been serving young people for the past decade and I hear so often, ‘We don’t have anything to do for our children,'” he said. “I can honestly say that’s not true. We have thousands of programs, tens of thousands of dedicated people serving our youth, but unfortunately they don’t always have the resources they need to succeed.

Part of that funding would also allow Louisville to bring back “neighborhood youth councils” in each of the Metro Council’s 26 districts. The 15-member councils will allow young people to dialogue with elected officials on future policies and programs.

“Our young people are ready to do that,” Arthur said. “We always talk about how they are the future, well, they are the moment.”

Funding for student housing at Simmons College of Kentucky, the ongoing public health response to COVID-19, and a reintegration program for formerly incarcerated people bring the proposal’s total to approximately $87.4 million.

The spending plan was submitted to the Metro Council on Monday in the form of an order. He is expected to get a first budget committee hearing on May 12 and could receive a final vote as early as May 19, if there are no changes to the plan.

The ordinance is currently sponsored by a six-member bipartisan group from the Metro Council, including three Democrats — Council Chairman David James of District 6, Bill Hollander of District 9, and Markus Winkler of District 17 — and Republicans Kevin Kramer of District 11 and Robin Engel from District 22.

Support for this story was provided in part by the Jewish Heritage Fund.

About the author