Childcare and shelter for homeless families were the leading priorities of the La Crosse County Board at its latest discussion of how $23 million in pandemic relief funding should be spent.
Those areas received the most votes among possible categories for spending, when board members were asked Monday night to pick priorities.
Skilled trades and a renovation of the Hillview nursing home also ranked high.
A few weeks ago, county leaders identified sustainability and affordable housing as the top areas where the American Rescue Plan Act funding should be spent.
Each of the board members was asked to cast votes in eight spending areas. The results of the vote will guide the board in deciding how the federal funding will be spent in the next three years.
On the subject of temporary housing for the homeless, some county board members have concerns about the new plan to buy the Chamber of Commerce lot near La Crosse City Hall for that purpose.
The cost of the property on La Crosse Street is around $2 million. La Crosse Mayor Mitch Reynolds said on La Crosse Talk PM on Monday a bid had been submitted.
The full board was briefed on the idea of building “bridge housing” for the homeless in the Chamber parking lot.
Supervisor Jack Pogreba said using existing vacant buildings might be better.
“Have we also searched out large retail operations … like the Shopkos and K-Mart facilities that have been vacated by those businesses?” Pogreba asked.
The La Crosse K-Mart and three Shopko stores all closed within the past five years and remain empty.
County Board chair Monica Kruse said the big box stores have been on the county’s radar.
She added that having a permanent housing site makes more financial sense than renting hotel rooms for the homeless during the winter. The city recently used $700,000 in relief funding to do just that, moving the homeless population out of Houska Park and elsewhere throughout the city.