Area towns consider ways to spend ARPA funds Town Halls, broadband, water among ideas for fed monies

American Rescue Plan funds are coming to towns in Vermont. Photo by Karolina Grabowska for Pexels.

By Cynthia Prairie
©2021 Telegraph Publishing LLC

Gov. Phil Scott has announced that Vermont has received 50 percent of its allocation from the State and Local Fiscal Recovery Fund within the American Rescue Plan Act, and a number of south-central towns have already begun considering how they will spend those funds. Those towns include Andover, Cavendish, Chester, Londonderry and Winhall. The funds were apportioned to the counties by Census population. (See chart below for area town allocations.)

Click image to enlarge

The state is required to distribute the local funds within 30 days to eligible cities, towns and villages based on a formula established in ARPA, so long as the award does not exceed 75 percent of the municipality’s budget in effect on Jan. 27, 2020.

All 276 eligible municipalities have certified with the state as of July 21, the second allocation will come within 12 months, and all the money must be spent by the end of 2024. Gov. Scott said, “That’s why I’ve proposed historic investments in housing, combatting climate change, broadband, water/sewer infrastructure and more. This certification also provides the opportunity for municipalities to make their own investments based on the needs of their communities.” (To see other eligible projects and restrictions, click on the image above right.)

Meanwhile, Vermont is awaiting a determination from the U.S. Treasury to see if it can distribute half of the $121 million of ARPA funds destined for Vermont’s 14 counties, all of which are court jurisdictions but have no governance role in the state. The federal government had set aside money to distribute to counties, under the belief that most counties are government entities.

However, a special rule was established in ARPA that redirects those county funds in states where counties aren’t considered local government entities, such as in Vermont, and the Vermont League of Cities and Towns has written to Treasury Secretary Janet Yellin urging that a portion of those funds be re-allocated to the towns.  You can read that letter by clicking here.

Now, the state is awaiting the go-ahead from Treasury.

Water, internet, emergency aid among early topics for spending

Local towns are in various stages in considering how to spend the funds.

The Select Board of Andover has been “brainstorming ideas for a while,” according to Town Clerk Jeanette Haight. With a total allocation of around $49,308, “they are looking at making Town Hall a usable, workable emergency shelter,” including adding a shower and “stable internet.”

Haight said the board is also considering adding solar to the three municipal buildings: Town Hall, the Town Offices and the Town Garage.

She added that the town would love to get the equipment needed for “hybrid meetings” — online and in-person — to meet the needs of second homeowners and full-time residents when the weather is difficult. And, she said, “I’ve advocated for digitizing land records.”

The Andover Select Board has been ‘brainstorming ideas for a while. They are looking at making Town Hall a usable, workable emergency shelter,’ including adding a shower and ‘stable internet.’

Andover Town Clerk Jeanette Haight
on possible uses for ARPA funds

Chester will receive a total of $316,575.76, said Town Manager Julie Hance, adding that she expects the first half to arrive “any day.” A small portion of the allocation, she said, will be used to offset the cost overrun on the new Public Safety Building on Pleasant Street. Those costs were a direct result of the Covid pandemic.

Also, “a good portion will be used on water/waste water,” and the town needs to have a supplemental well to the Jeffrey Well. Hance added, “We have a couple of sections of sewer line at Depot Street that still need to be replaced. I don’t know if the money would allow us, but in 2023, we need to replace the ambulance.” And, she added, the guidelines “do address vaguely recreational opportunities. We are going to try to go for the state grant money first.”

“I don’t want to invent projects,” Hance said. “I want to go to projects that are in the pipeline.” The town, she added, will be asking for public input.

Maureen Bell, chair of the Windham Select Board, said, “We’ll be receiving more than $41,000 in two parts” but the board has yet to discuss “how we want to spend it. There are a lot of restrictions on it. But it will be on the board agenda by Sept. 2.”

Londonderry Town Administrator Shane O’Keefe said the Derry Select Board “just filed for the money at its last meeting and has yet to sit down to discuss what to do with the money.

“We have a lot of needs in town,” he added, ticking off “a bridge project, town building projects, we’re in the middle of a study for water/sewer for both villages. The old Town Hall on Middletown Road needs major upgrades, including new roofing and windows and restoring the balcony, which at this point cannot be used.” Londonderry will be receiving $173,362.92 from the two allocations. “In the next month or two,” O’Keefe said, “we will decide on the projects.”

‘A bridge project, town building projects, we’re in the middle of a study for water/sewer for both villages. The old Town Hall on Middletown Road needs a major upgrade, including new roofing and windows and restoring the balcony, which at this point cannot be used.’

Londonderry Town Administrator Shane O’Keefe
on possible uses for ARPA funds

Brendan McNamara, the Town Manager of Cavendish, said, “We’ve had some preliminary discussion. Our big focus is to help fund the sewer line replacement on Depot Street — on Route 131 between Singleton’s and Depot. But we aren’t sure that the money will come in on time.” He added that the project was planned long before this money was announced, so it will be funded. The total the town expects from both ARPA allocations is $147,610.

McNamara also said, “We have four (pump stations) that pump from Greven Road to downtown Proctorsville and Cavendish” that need updating. “But it would be nice to have a project to benefit everyone,” since not every resident is on town sewer and water. Another item in preliminary discussion has been broadband, but McNamara said he wasn’t sure there will be enough money to cover it. 

American Rescue Plan Allocations to Area Towns

TOWN2019 Estimated
POPULATION
Estimated 2021
ALLOCATION
Estimated 2022
ALLOCATION
Andover471$24,654$24,654
Baltimore245$12,824$12,824
Bellows Falls2,965$155,200$155,200
Cavendish1,410$73,805$73,805
Chester3,024$158,288$158,288
Grafton675$35,332$35,332
Landgrove157$8,218$8,218
Londonderry1,656$86,682$86,682
Ludlow Town1,095$57,317$57,317
Ludlow Village769$40,253$40,253
Manchester Town3,513$183,884$183,884
Manchester Village711$37,217$37,217
Peru355$18,582$18,582
Rockingham1,477$77,312$77,312
Saxtons River539$28,214$28,214
Springfield 8,908$466,280$466,280
Weston544$28,475$28,475
Windham396$20,728$20,728
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About the Author: Cynthia Prairie has been a newspaper editor more than 30 years. She has worked at such publications as the Raleigh Times, the Baltimore News American, the Buffalo Courier Express, the Chicago Sun-Times and the Patuxent Publishing chain of community newspapers in Maryland. She and her family moved to Chester, Vermont in 2004.

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