Metro Louisville

Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer and a bipartisan group of Metro Council members released a proposal Tuesday for spending nearly $80 million in federal pandemic relief on neighborhood projects ranging from park improvements to new library branches.

If approved, it would be the city’s fourth round of spending from the roughly $390 million it received from the American Rescue Plan Act, passed by Congress last year. 

Louisville Metro has already appropriated funding for eviction diversion and vaccination outreach, as well as police reforms and affordable housing. The latest proposal would leave $53 million for workforce development projects that are still up for discussion.

The spending plan released Tuesday earmarks $51.8 million for “healthy neighborhoods,” which includes $5.8 million to reopen the Parkland and Fern Creek libraries and $6 million to expand the Baxter Community Center and create a new public park nearby.

“These investments represent transformational changes in many neighborhoods throughout Louisville, and it’s an opportunity to convert a list of projects we always hoped we could do into reality,” Fischer said. 

The healthy neighborhoods proposals also include $7.5 million to expand access to quality child care options across Jefferson County. 

District 8 Metro Council Member Cassie Chambers Armstrong, a Democrat, said that funding could be used to provide small loans to create new early learning centers and upgrade existing playgrounds. Chamber Armstrong sponsored an ordinance, recently approved by Metro Council, that eases zoning restrictions on child care facilities.

“This [proposal] is a significant step forward for the youngest children in our city,” she said Tuesday.

Other healthy neighborhoods projects that could get funding include:

  • $10 million for environmental remediation at the Rhodia brownfields in west Louisville
  • $8 million for the renovation and expansion of the main Louisville Free Public Library branch downtown
  • $5 million for renovations to the Norton and Algonquin public pools
  • $2 million for improving broadband internet access across Jefferson County
  • $2.5 million for restoring the Chickasaw Pond for community use
  • $2 million to create an electronic records system for Louisville Metro Public Health and Wellness

The proposal would cover projects aimed at improving programming and resources for Louisville’s young people, too. 

Officials want to spend $8.5 million on developing a Youth Development System, overseen by the Office of Safe & Healthy Neighborhoods (OSHN), for residents between the ages of 10 and 24. It would coordinate all the city’s youth-focused nonprofits and manage a new fund for providing grants to those organizations. 

Council Member Jecorey Arthur, a Democrat representing District 4, said the funding would help more parents connect to the services that are out there.

“I’ve been serving youth over the past decade and I hear so often, ‘We don’t have anything for our kids to do,’” he said. “I can honestly say that’s not true. We have thousands of programs, tens of thousands of people dedicated to serving our youth, but unfortunately they don’t always have the resources that they need to succeed.”

Some of that funding would also allow Louisville to bring back ‘neighborhood youth boards’ in each of the 26 Metro Council districts. The 15-member boards will allow young people to engage with elected officials on future policies and programming.

“Our youth are ready to do that,” Arthur said. “We always talk about how they’re the future, well they’re the right now.”

Funding for student housing at Simmons College of Kentucky, the ongoing public health response to COVID-19 and a re-entry program for formerly incarcerated people bring the total tally of the proposal to around $87.4 million. 

The spending plan was submitted to Metro Council on Monday in the form of an ordinance. It’s expected to get a first hearing from the Budget Committee on May 12 and could receive a final vote as early as May 19, if there are no changes to the plan. 

The ordinance is currently sponsored by a bipartisan group of six Metro Council members, including three Democrats — Council President David James of District 6, Bill Hollander of District 9 and Markus Winkler of District 17 — and Republicans Kevin Kramer of District 11 and Robin Engel of District 22. 

Support for this story was provided in part by the Jewish Heritage Fund.

Roberto Roldan is the City Politics and Government Reporter for WFPL.