ROCKLAND — The Rockland City Council has tough decisions to make as it tries to decide how to spend its $756,737 in federal aid.

The possible uses include: direct aid to Area Interfaith Outreach, which would then provide money for city residents to buy home heating fuel, stipends for city emergency workers, stipends for private sector essential workers, and stormwater management projects across the community.

No decisions were made, and a follow-up meeting has not yet been scheduled. The city has through 2024 to spend the money.

“We’re in a completely untenable position as far as how any of us can decide who is more deserving of a dollar.” Councilor Louise MacLellan-Ruf said. “It’s a tough call.”

Last month, City Manager Tom Luttrell unveiled a list of possible projects for the American Rescue Plan Act that totaled $1.7 million. And, on Wednesday night, Nov. 17, city councilors heard additional potential uses of the money.

Joe Ryan, executive director of the Area Interfaith Outreach, spoke to councilors at the Wednesday, Nov. 17 meeting. Ryan said the home energy assistance program, managed by the state through federal funds, will not have money for local residents until April. The AIO has $100,000, but he said that will deplete by the end of December.

“In January and February we will get calls from people who are out of heat,” Ryan said.

Councilor Sarah Austin said using some of the federal rescue plan money for energy assistance would offer immediate relief to people.

Already given as an option by the city manager was premium pay for workers, such as firefighters/emergency medical technicians, police officers, transfer station workers, and most sewer department employees. The estimated cost of that additional pay is $197,000.

Knox County is providing retention bonuses for corrections officers, patrol officers, civil process servers, emergency communications workers, workers in the information technology department, and emergency management agency. Other cities, counties, and some states have also opted to use money for emergency personnel stipends.

Councilor Nate Davis said Rockland could also use its money to provide additional pay for low-income Rockland residents who are essential workers in the private sector.

Last month, Knox County Emergency Management Agency Director Ray Sisk suggested at a county commissioner meeting the county use some of its $7.7 million in federal rescue aid for private sector essential workers, such as day care employees. Sisk suggested $1.5 million for that program. He said if child care centers do not operate, local residents will not be able to hold jobs.

Mayor Ed Glaser acknowledged at the Council’s Nov. 17 meeting that there were a lot of needs in the community.

One project included in the city manager’s list of $220,000 is for correcting drainage problems in Pen Bay Acres. Councilors said, while important, the project would only help four properties. Luttrell said, however, land is eroding and the deck of one house is at risk of being lost to a creek, which is flowing through the subdivision.

MacLellan-Ruf said the Lindsey Brook stormwater drainage situation was an emergency with people losing furnaces, and other things, to flooding, that is happening more frequently.

The largest single item on the manager’s list is $800,000 for the creation of a retention pond to be located between upper Talbot and upper Rankin streets. The retention pond would be aimed at reducing drainage problems along Lindsey Book. A retention pond was recommended for decades, but the cost was prohibited.