The La Crosse County Board is delivering on its plan to use the county’s historic $22.89 million American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) allocation to make our community stronger and more sustainable.
Over the past few months, the board has approved a series of programs to invest in rural infrastructure, increase housing supply countywide, and improve services to older adults who need long-term care. Combined, these projects commit close to half of our ARPA allocation on projects that align with the priorities the county board set one year ago. Let’s look at those projects in more detail and consider what’s still to come.
Stormwater Infrastructure Grant Program
The board approved $2 million for this program in July that applies only to unincorporated parts of the county, which includes towns and rural areas. The program will respond to the increasing frequency of major flooding events we have all experienced in recent years. It will fund plans to protect homes, farmland, and public infrastructure from flooding. By reducing runoff and erosion, the program also will improve water quality. The overall goal is to increase the resiliency of rural communities that lack resources to respond to the growing threat from flooding.
Neighborhood Revitalization Acquisition & Demolition Grant Program
This program was initially launched in 2016 to focus only on a small number of neighborhoods in the city of La Crosse. Since then, it has leveraged $1.3 million in grant funding into over $30 million of new tax base and 263 housing units. Now, we’re expanding the program countywide with $2 million approved by the county board in June. The new funding will help replace dilapidated housing stock with new houses during a housing shortage. The new construction will have positive ripple effects in neighborhoods and expand the tax base that funds schools and local services.
Hillview Health Care Center in La Crosse is self-sufficient, meaning it does not receive any property tax dollars. It is one of La Crosse County’s two long term care campuses (Lakeview Health and Assisted Living, the largest employer in West Salem, is the second campus). Hillview has a long and proud history of caring for older adults but needs modernization. That’s why the county board in March approved using $5 million of our ARPA funding to develop a new 48-unit Community Based Residential Facility (CBRF). The CBRF will meet a growing need for long term care options for people with dementia and other complex needs. Construction should start by the end of the year and the facility will create a sustainable future for Hillview as a vital community asset.
Still to Come: Solar, Homelessness, Childcare
The three projects detailed above represent a sizable investment in the long-term vitality of La Crosse County. But we’re not done yet. Next on our ARPA agenda are plans to expand the use of solar power to provide energy for county buildings. The goal is to produce long-term savings for taxpayers while bringing the county closer to its goal of carbon neutrality.
On homelessness, we are working with the city of La Crosse and local agencies on long-term housing solutions. We can end homelessness in La Crosse County and the way to do that is by increasing housing options. Watch for progress on this issue coming soon.
The board also has set aside $500,000 of our ARPA allocation for projects that support local veterans. Look for a plan on how those dollars will be used before the end of the year.
Finally, we are also continuing to push forward with plans to address the child care crisis. Our goal is to improve access, quality and affordability for parents. This is a complex and challenging issue and one that is too large for the county to address alone. Nevertheless, we remain committed to working with local providers and school districts to come up with a plan to help.
None of these projects are perfect, but each will bring us closer to our vision of a La Crosse County where everyone can be successful. Stay tuned for updates.