Steve Pressley

Mayor Steve Presley says the City of Palestine could receive up to $1 million from the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security, or CARES, Act passed by Congress earlier this year, as long as the city finalizes plans for using it.

So far, however, none of the funds have been used. The city can determine how funds will be used and must submit documentation for completing projects before Dec. 30.

As a local government, Palestine is eligible for a slice of $150 billion in funds that Congress earmarked for state and local, and tribal governments coping with COVID-19 in March. CARES Act funds must be used to provide needs or services related to the community’s needs for dealing with COVID-19.

Decisions on use of the funds will occur in the next few weeks, as the council and city manager coordinate the new fiscal year’s budget. City council will hold a budget meeting at 5:30 p.m. Monday, Aug 24..

In Monday’s council meeting, Presley said the city can spend the funds as the government determines suitable and submit documentation for reimbursement. He proposed a portion of the funds can apply to seating changes to the Palestine Youth Athletic Complex, to accommodate safe attendance at baseball games.

The city closed PYAA last fall when a lawsuit by Michael Ivey threatened millions in penalties for failing to provide adequate access for persons with disabilities. District Judge Jeremy Kernodle dismissed the suit in December without prejudice, but the complex remains closed as engineers work on plans to improve access.

Presley said the city is eligible to determine what expenditures are necessary, provided city management can make plans to use them.

“It appears to me that the money is available to us if we get hot after it and get on doing projects that we can do,” Presley said Monday, handing the applications to City Manager Leslie Cloer.

The council also approved a contract with Northeast Texas Public Health of Tyler to pay for hiring an employee to work on COVID-19 contact tracing in the Palestine area. Nurse Stephanie Walker is currently managing local case counts, but needs help in tracking the area’s growing number of caseloads.

Funds from the CARES Act can also cover the cost of the new contract, Presley said.

In other matters, the council voted to contract with Anderson County to conduct the city’s charter election Nov. 3. The two local governments will share the expense of holding the election at the Anderson County Courthouse Annex. Amendments to the charter election are still being accepted.

City council meets again at 5:30 p.m. Monday, Aug. 24. Meetings are streamed live on Zoom and Facebook. Recordings of previous meetings are available on the City of Palestine’s Facebook Page, @palestinetx. For more information, call 903-731-8400.

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