ASHLAND -- Ashland city council approved more than $770,000 in purchases during Tuesday evening's meeting with its anticipated second round of COVID-19 relief funding from the CARES act.
The purchases included several new vehicles to enhance social distancing efforts and a new ventilation system for the third floor of the municipal building.
“We are trying to take full advantage of this very unique, one-time opportunity with these COVID funds. We are doing our best to be sure that we maximize the benefit of these dollars," Mayor Matt Miller said.
If the city does not spend the allotted COVID relief funds prior to the deadline, any leftover money must be returned to the state who will then resubmit it to the federal government.
During the first round, Ashland spent a significant portion of its funds to assist more than 40 local business. Nearly $200,000 was used for COVID-19 Business Relief Program grants. The city was required to spend the total amount of the funds, lest they would return the remaining total to the state auditor for redistribution.
Recently, the city received approximately $157,000 from redistribution. The city then collected their second CARES act relief allocation, which totaled $730,000 and must be specifically used for the health and safety of the city's citizens and employees.
On Tuesday evening, the first approved purchase was a new medic (an emergency vehicle) for the fire department to replace one of the city’s 2013 models. With this $285,000 purchase, the city has the option to move one of their current medics to the new fire station on Mifflin Avenue once construction is complete.
In 2019, the city of Ashland had 701 instances where two medics were needed at the same time and 211 where three were deployed at the same time, according to Miller, who cited a conversation with fire chief Rick Anderson.
The city also purchased two patient power-load systems to be installed inside of the medic units, which are designed to load the cots into the vehicles. The cost will for these units will not exceed $90,000.
In addition to the vehicles and equipment for the fire department, city council also approved the purchase of an additional truck to be driven by the city engineer.
“This will also allow the employees in that section to not have to travel together in the same vehicle," said Miller. "They will be able to spread out, which is one of the recommendations under the CARES program.”
Council also approved the purchase of four Ford pickups trucks for the street department. This will also enhance social distancing practices, said Mayor Miller.
City council further approved an ordinance that will allow the third floor of the municipal building receive a refurbished ventilation system to increase the airflow for the employees who work at the location.
The final approved purchase of the meeting was a Ford Explorer, bought so that a variety of public officials and city employees could use it as needed.
Later in the meeting, Miller spoke of the parking on Main Street.
“We are going to be making some changes here in the coming weeks and months ahead to parking downtown," said Miller. "Those parking spots on Main Street – they are actually only two-hour parking spots.
"We haven’t strictly enforced that because we’ve never had a reason to. It’s becoming an issue because they are parking there and maybe keeping their car there the whole business day.”
Mayor Miller also announced that, with the help of the city engineering staff, they plan to turn Third Street from Cottage Street to Union Street into a two-way road to assist in facilitating traffic.
During the public comments section of the meeting, Lisa Shafer took a turn on the microphone and asked the council about an instance of graffiti located on the rear wall of the city’s tax office. Finance Director Larry Paxton explained to the council the precise location of the blemish.
“About five years ago, the city experienced some graffiti being painted on different buildings," said Paxton. "On the back of the tax office, there is some graffiti that has been there for five years and has started to fade.
"We certainly can look at that.”