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Saunders presents potential uses for ARPA funds

Windsor Town Manager William Saunders presented a brief list of projects to the Town Council on Aug. 10 that could benefit from American Rescue Plan Act of 2021 funds, with emphasis on water system and stormwater projects and one revenue replacement opportunity.

William Saunders

ARPA is a federal act that was passed to invest in localities dealing with the pandemic and impacts of the pandemic.

“Of the funding, $19.53 billion was designated to assist localities with a population under 50,000,” Saunders said.

The funding is similar to CARES Act funding, he continued, except it has a broader range of uses.

In a memo to the mayor and Town Council found within the Aug. 10 meeting packet, Saunders wrote that primarily, the potential uses include responding to the pandemic and related negative impacts; replacing lost public sector revenue; providing premium pay for essential workers; and investing in water, sewer, stormwater and broadband infrastructure.

“The Town of Windsor is due to receive a total of $2.067 million, half of which was received at the end of June,” he said. “The other half will be received in June 2022.

“Unlike the CARES Act funding, which passed through Isle of Wight County to the town, these funds are distributed directly to the town from the commonwealth of Virginia,” he continued. “This puts the primary administrative and financial duties related to the funding on the town.”

Potential uses for the funding that Saunders listed for the council’s consideration included

  • the Duke Street and Virginia Avenue water system upgrade, slated to cost $620,000;
  • other water system upgrades that are in the town’s Capital Improvement Plan;
  • revenue replacement for the Windsor Town Center;
  • a stormwater project adjacent to the now-closed Farmer’s Daughter Cafe on U.S. Route 460, in partnership with Isle of Wight County, slated to cost $135,000;
  • other stormwater projects that have been identified in the town’s stormwater analysis that was done by Bowman Consulting;
  • and a sewer project on which the town could potentially partner with the county at some point.

“I just wanted to give you all a little information about what we got, some potential ways to use it, and we will be coming back with more specific information,” Saunders said.

Returning to the subject of the Duke Street and Virginia Avenue water system upgrade, he added, “As you’re aware, we got sticker shock recently on that, and I have a feeling that the estimates were even low given the chain of supply with the pandemic right now.

“So if that were council’s choice, I would say we should probably reserve the lion’s share of this first tranche (of ARPA funds) for that project and potentially some stormwater projects, and then we would have more time to plan for how we wanted to use the second tranche that will come in next year,” he said.

He indicated there is a deadline connected to the ARPA money.

Kelly Blankenship

“This money does have to be spent I believe by 2024, so we have a few years to spend it, but it’s not like it’s something that we can just start a fund for, say, stormwater projects that we could feed off of for the future,” he said. “This money has to be expended within the next few years.”

At the end of the discussion on the ARPA funding suggestions, Council member Kelly Blankenship said, “Before we start earmarking more than just FYI kind of stuff, we really need to go look at our strategic plan and see if there’s anything in there that we want to pull forward as well.”

Saunders said, “I did look at that when I was putting the staff report together, and really, the only things that relate to things that we could probably use any appreciable amount of this funding for was actually No. 1 in the strategic plan. It had to do with infrastructure, the water system, the sewer system in town and stormwater. So these items that we kind of already had in mind fit the very first thing in the strategic plan, and I don’t think there’s a lot more that we could use an appreciable amount of money for.”

But he concluded by inviting council members to look over the strategic plan and to bring points back to him if they saw anything that the town should explore.