Cedar City Council considers uses for CARES funding, wish lists for gymnasium

CEDAR CITY — The Cedar City Council was presented with recommendations for how to spend funding from the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act, and discussed potential programming options for a city gymnasium facility during its meeting Wednesday.

Cedar City Council meeting May 20, 2020 | Photo by Kelsey Cooke, St George News / Cedar City News

City Financial Director Jason Norris presented a budget amendment to the council to include coronavirus relief bill funds in the city’s 2020-2021 budget. 

“This is to authorize accepting those funds and expending them,” Norris said. 

City Manager Paul Bittmenn provided the council with options for how the city could spend coronavirus relief bill, also known as CARES Act, funding.

The city would receive approximately $3,018,650 in three allotments, and city staff’s recommendations were to spend the majority of the funding ($2,403,605) on purchasing equipment for the city and payroll for frontline public safety staff from April to Nov. 1. 

Other spending recommendations include contributing $515,000 to the Iron County CARES Impact Grant, and $50,000 to both the Iron County Care and Share and Iron County School District as reimbursements for expenses related to COVID-19. 

Bittmenn explained that the recommendations fall in line with the federal requirements for how coronavirus aid funding can be spent. 

Cedar City Manager Paul Bittmenn, center, places the “golden bolts” on the final U.S. Bicycle Route sign to be installed in Utah at a ceremony in Cedar City, Utah, Oct. 26, 2016 | Photo courtesy of Southern Utah Bicycle Alliance, St. George News

“We’re going to make a proposal to the council that we spend the $3 million in accordance with the guidance,” Bittmenn said. 

Recommended equipment for the city to purchase included handwashing trailers, pressure washing machines for various city facilities, mobile electronic messaging boards, replacement office furniture that is more easily cleaned and some personal protective equipment. 

Bittmenn said according to federal guidelines, all first-line public safety personnel are considered to have a significant impact on their responsibilities due to the coronavirus and the calculation for the payroll recommendation excluded employees in primarily administrative roles.

“We looked at first-line public safety as police and fire,” Bittmenn said. “That single line item for the first-line public safety defenders for payroll costs and benefits for April through November is $1.8 million.”

Bittmenn said he also reached out to the Iron County Care and Share, as well as the Iron County School District to what expenses those organizations incurred due to the coronavirus, and staff recommendations included granting some of the city’s funding to help with those costs. 

Bittmenn said the final recommendation included supporting the county’s CARES Impact Grant.

“I know the City Council has recommended that we support this endeavor to help small businesses so that would be the last chunk of the funding,” Bittmenn said. 

Cedar City Mayor Maile Wilson-Edwards said the recommendation does not cover the entirety of costs incurred to the Care and Share and the school district because both entities have received other allotments of coronavirus aid funding. 

“Both organizations also received money from other CARES programs,” she said. “The county technically can assist both of those organizations as well if they so choose.” 

Bittmenn added that the proposed spending recommendations, if approved, would be distributed as funds are received. 

“The proposal is to distribute all that funding amount in one-third increments as we get the money,” Bittmenn said. 

This photo provides a peak into the Adams Shakespeare Theatre, built in the 1970s as the main stage for productions of the Utah Shakespeare Festival, Southern Utah University, Cedar City, Utah, Aug. 17, 2019 | Photo by Reuben Wadsworth, St. George News

The council expressed interest in providing the Utah Shakespeare Festival with a grant as well, as the organization would be unable to qualify for a small business grant. 

Bittmenn said the Shakespeare Festival could potentially be included in the coronavirus aid funding budget. 

“Ask them to calculate how much revenue they anticipate losing due to the COVID-19 shut down,” Bittmenn said. “They can give you a number and the council can decide how much of that number you want to offer relief to, similar to what we did with the school district and Care and Share.”

Councilman Scott Phillips asked about the logistics of using coronavirus relief funding for payroll and benefits.

“Since that is something we’ve already budgeted for our 2020-2021 year, do we go ahead and expend the grant side of it and we put the other in some kind of reserve or something?” Phillips said. “What do we do with those kind of funds?”

Bittmenn said because the already budgeted payroll expenses come from the general fund, he suggested not spending the money until after the coronavirus aid funding has been spent and audited. 

“Assuming that we don’t have any budget shortfalls or we don’t need it to backfill payroll, you can spend it on anything you can spend general fund money on,” Bittmenn said. 

The council will vote on amending the budget to include coronavirus relief funding in the 2020-2021 budget and how it is spent during the July 22 action meeting. 

Residents chime in on recreation center

Screenshot of the plans for a recreation center to be added to the Cedar City Aquatic Center, presented to Cedar City Council May 20, 2020 | Photo by Kelsey Cooke, St George News / Cedar City News

The council also considered projections for costs and programming related to the recreation center planned to be added to the Cedar City Aquatic Center. 

Director of Leisure Services Ken Nielson addressed the master plan for the Leisure Services Department, which was updated in 2017 after assessing community needs through town hall meetings and an online survey. 

Nielson said the survey found residents wanted additional facilities for community recreation.

“The survey gathered information from participation and facility use on what the citizens felt was needed in the community and what they would like to see,” Nielson said. “Number one was an indoor walking track; number two was multi-use gymnasiums, which includes basketball, volleyball, pickleball, the events that we talk about that go into multi-use areas; and then a field house.” 

He added that desired amenities are being addressed through improvements to the Lake at the Hills and upgrades to softball and baseball facilities, followed by adding gymnasiums to the Aquatic Center. 

Sports and Recreation Program Manager Jennifer Weaver spoke briefly about potential community and sports programming that could be done with gymnasiums. 

“It’s idea is to bring all the community members to have a great place for people to come and participate in, enhance their quality of life, to bring our community together, to do lots of different activities,” Weaver said.

Weaver touched on some of the activities that could be done with amenities the gymnasiums will provide, like sports leagues, fitness classes, dances, competitions, after school programs and events. 

Weaver also discussed current available facilities for sports programming. 

“The biggest difficulty I have is scheduling the facility, the gymnasiums,” Weaver said. 

Weaver said the city currently uses some school gymnasiums for sports programs, but use is limited by availability and school facilities. 

“We’re competing with high school practice and border league-type practices, middle school-aged sports as well,” Weaver said. “We get in some of the time, but not all the time, and then sometimes as we have it scheduled we get dismissed.” 

Aquatic Center Manager Chris Hudson said it was built with adding gymnasiums in mind and has a lot of existing infrastructure in place to support the addition. 

“We have a lot of existing infrastructure in the gymnasium,” he said. “This was all put in prior to any of us adding a phase two in this scenario; this was all talked about originally.”

Hudson said the facility already has infrastructure to support a child watch center and gymnasiums, such as shared walls, footings, electrical and drainage. He also explained the child watch center is not designed to be a day care facility but intended to allow parents to utilize the facility more freely, and projected staffing costs at approximately $23,400. 

Norris also presented some projected figures for additional costs the gymnasiums would add to the Aquatic Center, totaling $150,852 per year. 

The council also asked staff to put together projected revenues the added facilities might produce. 

Copyright St. George News, SaintGeorgeUtah.com LLC, 2020, all rights reserved.

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