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St. John Town Council debates makeup of ARPA plan committee

screenshot from Town of St. John, Indiana YouTube video
St. John town officials debate the makeup of a proposed ARPA committee during the Mar. 23 council meeting.

Who gets to decide how to spend St. John's share of federal COVID money was the topic of a debate during Wednesday's town council meeting. St. John expects to get about $4 million dollars from the American Rescue Plan Act.

Council President Gerald Swets recommended appointing three residents to an ad-hoc committee that would be run by the town manager, which would then consider funding requests from department heads. "I think I would like to keep it strictly to residents. The department heads that are asking for the money, I don't think, should be on the decision-making end of making recommendations," Swets said.

But the fact that the town never actually sought volunteers drew concern from Council Member Wayne Pondinas. "If you want the public, then advertise for the public, and let the public put in applications," Pondinas told the rest of the council.

"So you want to put in the applications, and then you want to interview everybody that applies and we're looking farther down the road? We've got other communities that have already passed their ordinances and resolutions on this money, and we haven't done anything yet," Swets replied.

Pondinas then proposed adding the clerk-treasurer and department heads to the committee, along with three residents yet to be determined. Both motions died for lack of a second.

Town Manager Joe Wiszowaty plans to discuss the matter with council members individually, before they revisit it next month.