Athens Has Received Its First Big Slice Of American Rescue Plan Funds

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ATHENS, Ohio (WOUB) — The city of Athens finally received its share of the American Rescue Plan Act funds after a long wait from its announcement in March.

Athens City Hall is seen in Athens, Ohio, on Tuesday, June 22, 2021. [Joseph Scheller | WOUB]
Athens received the first half of its $2.5 million American Rescue Plan allocation two weeks ago. [Joseph Scheller | WOUB]
The city received the first half of its $2.5 million allocation two weeks ago, city Auditor Kathy Hecht announced at Monday’s City Council meeting. Ideas for what the money will go to are in the works.

 “I want to start with developing fiber connectivity throughout the city buildings,” Athens Mayor Steve Patterson said. “With that design we will update the cameras on Court Street as well as be able to provide free Wi-Fi on Court and West Union streets. Which would be huge.”

All spending of these funds must receive City Council approval.

Patterson said he and City Council member Sam Crowl will have a game plan to get the ball rolling on this, but expects it will take some time.

The council on Monday also accepted a Southeast Ohio Public Energy Council (SOPEC) community grant that will go toward an electric bus for the Hocking Athens Perry Community Atction Program (HAPCAP).

This goes back to when Patterson first took office in 2016 and mandated that when gas-powered vehicles are retired the city has to replace them with an electric vehicle.

“(Athens) will be one of the first, if not the first rural community in southeast Ohio that has this kind of bus,” Patterson said.

The council as a whole is also backing an ordinance that will raise trash rates, an action will impact everyone in the city.

The incremental increase is intended to get the city back on track.

“What we’re trying to do is have a small increment every year as the cost goes up,” council member Ben Ziff said.

An emergency clause was added to the ordinance at Monday’s meeting, so once it passes through council it will take effect right away, as opposed to the usual 30-day waiting period. 

Ziff said this action was necessary in order to stop the garbage fund from bleeding anymore.

“Right now the garbage fund is experiencing some uncomfortable pain,” he said. “The fund is lagging right now, and that’s partly because of COVID-19 and the lack of trash being put out.”