By Jamie Wiggan
Having received the first of two checks from the federal government’s American Rescue Plan, McKees Rocks officials opted to spend the funds on essential worker bonuses, sewer project repairs and Aldi gift cards as an incentive for residents to get vaccinated against the coronavirus. The remaining share will go toward recouping budget losses from the prior tax year.
Of the $303,564 so far allocated, council voted Aug. 10 to spend $5,000 on gift cards, $16,800 on employee bonuses, $125,000 on sewage repairs and $156,764 on recouping general fund losses.
An identical check representing the remaining half of the federal funds will be issued within 12 months. Council has not taken action to allocate those outstanding monies but during August public meetings discussed several sewage and infrastructure projects as possible candidates.
Council voted unanimously on all four sections of the fund disbursements, with the exception of the gift vouchers, where Councilmembers Joe Mixter and Craig Myers abstained. Liz Delgado, John Malesnick and Chas Maritz were absent.
In addition to states and counties, all municipalities qualified for relief funding through the $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan signed by President Joe Biden March 11. Uses for the funds are limited to a handful of permitted areas including recouping lost revenue, bonus pay to essential workers, incentivizing vaccinations and select infrastructure upgrades.
The employee bonuses will be paid out to 33 borough employees and contractors who have worked for the borough during any point during the pandemic months. The borough’s 23 full-time and part-time employees will all receive $600 payments, while the 10 contractors and seasonal workers will receive $300.
All bonuses are subject to the solicitor’s review to determine eligibility.
“This money is something for someone who went above and beyond and I believe that our workers did,” President Archie Brinza said.
The gift vouchers will be distributed during a vaccination event set to take place within the borough with support for the Allegheny County Health Department. A date has not yet been set.
According to LeeAnn Wozniak, substitute borough manager, event officials will hand out gift cards on the spot to residents who get their second vaccine, while those getting their first will have to attend a follow-up appointment to receive their second shot before receiving their gift card.
The vote authorized purchases of 100 $50 gift cards to be given to McKees Rocks residents only.
“I think it will be great to move forward with getting vaccines in our town because we are low on the totem pole on shots,” Brinza said.
In other borough news:
• Council approved a contract with a texting service to facilitate two-way communication between residents and borough administration. Council members said they opted for the TextMyGov service after researching ways to improve communication with residents.
• Council approved a letter of authority permitting Substitute Manager LeeAnn Wozniak to act as borough’s chief executive while Ruth Pompey remains absent on extended sick leave. Since approving a leave of absence June 2 council has not publicly discussed Pompey’s status with the borough. In a later interview, Council President Archie Brinza confirmed Pompey’s health is still a concern and said the question of her return remains open.
• Council approved an agreement with new Roxian Theatre operators Live Nation, permitting the closure of McDonald Way during events at a cost of $25 per night.