Can American Rescue Funds pay for an ice skating rink in Warren?
Some members of Warren city council want to use American Rescue Funds to revive the tradition of ice skating at Courthouse Square.
"Everyone could take advantage of this, every child, every adult in the city," Jim Graham said, president of city council.
Graham and Councilwomen Helen Rucker are joined by private donors and business leaders who are in favor of persuing the project. He estimates the rink and operation costs would total about $135,000. Graham is also confident that the city could receive some donations to help cover a portion of the overall cost.
Warren will receive close to $28 million in federal rescue dollars to reinvest back into the city, but it's not clear whether the guidelines would allow for the money to be spent on an ice rink.
Graham believes it would be covered.
"This is economic development at its best," he said. "It's going to attract people to downtown Warren, it's going to open up the city. You can't get any closer to economic development than this ice skating rink."
City hall says using the money in this situation is undetermined at this point.
The U.S. Department of the Treasury says American Rescue money generally does not cover economic development:
"Generally, not. Recipients must demonstrate that funding uses directly address a negative
economic impact of the COVID-19 public health emergency, including funds used for
economic or workforce development. For example, job training for unemployed workers
may be used to address negative economic impacts of the public health emergency and be eligible."
The guidelines go on to specify its use for job training for unemployed workers or the reopening of a businesses in the tourism industry.
Having an attraction for recreation in the community is an investment that could benefit the county. County Commissioner Mauro Cantalamessa says he's not sure if the American Rescue Funds can be used to cover it since the guidelines have not all been released.
"It's something that companies look at when they locate here, because obviously if you're going to employ individuals and families are going to live here, you need to have something for those families to do," Cantalamessa said.
Graham says he's moving forward with planning meetings for public input on the potential project. He believes it would become a holiday season destination.
Warren isn't the only city considering this type of project. The News and Observer reports that city officials in Raleigh, North Carolina, also want to use $250,000 in American Rescue Funds to pay for a downtown ice skating rink.