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New Health Department Best Use of ARPA Funds

By Jeff Jobe, Community Publisher

In June of last year, Barren County Magistrate Trent Riddle detailed in open meeting how the Barren County Fiscal Court had already committed to spend $5,458,052.00 of the total $8,581,821.00 received by the American Rescue Plan Act. At that time there was an estimated balance of $3,123,769.00 left.

We disclosed in this newspaper they had spent more than 60% of the total in less than 7 months and nobody was sharing the fact that they had until 2026 to spend it. This newspaper was alone in researching and reporting the issues at hand and the overwhelming fact that they had no idea at that time what the total promises would be because wording had been changed from what magistrates had approved and the agreements signed.

It was the proclaimed goal of the former top county official to spend it all and this combined with an election year underway, had politically-savvy individuals and groups jumping in line.

I wrote back then that the county was well on its way to spending the entire amount, and when it was all said and done have nothing to show for it.

It was a difficult discussion to have because all our families and certainly all our businesses suffered. Some more than others but to try and place a dollar value on individuals would be a mistake. A challenge I couldn’t wrap my arms around and I have yet to hear a good argument supporting it.

If it were not for Magistrates Riddle and Carl Dickerson taking a firm stand and stopping what was beginning to look a lot like a political vote-buying storm, we would have nothing to show for it.

In this same open meeting, Dickerson said, “I’ll not vote to spend another penny of ARPA money, for the rest of this year.” Riddle said, “We have got to go back and get this cleaned up… I’m not going to vote on spending anymore until we do.”

This past week, the Barren County Fiscal Court announced they would be buying the old US Bank building for $1.1M. The building and large parking lot are located in downtown Glasgow. It has been vacated for several months and has had some renovations because of recent storm damage to the roof and rooftop air-conditioning.

It has been announced that it will become home to the Barren County Health Department and I can think of no better example of using ARPA money as intended than a new modern facility for our health department.

The health department employees are happy as well and it is very much needed. I have had the occasion to be on site a few times over the past few years and witnessed firsthand water in the floor from foundation leaks and flickering lights because of outdated fixtures and perhaps wiring.

The Barren County Health Department will be providing $500,000.00 of their own funds to make renovations needed specifically for them. This is an example of community partnership at its best.

Anyone who would have taken the time to look at the narrative for these funds would have found long ago that they are to be used to help the general public first, and more specifically, the lower income individuals should be given priority.

I sincerely believe this is the absolute best example of helping us all and those most in need. I remember getting my vaccinations at my county health department some 50-years ago in Greenup County and it was in better shape back then than ours here today.

Downtown Glasgow will have a building occupied instead of another vacant building and it is bringing people downtown.

To magistrates of the past who stopped the spend and to those newly elected who made this possible,  I say thank you.  We now have something in Barren County from the pandemic funds that will serve as a reminder of the experiences we suffered because of the lockdowns, illnesses and fear that came with the Covid-19 Pandemic.  

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