July 2 – Cities and towns across the country have 18 months to commit a total of $350 billion in state and local fiscal stimulus funds under the American Rescue Plan Act signed into law in March 2021, and two more years late to spend the fund.
And the municipalities of southeastern Connecticut are found at various points along this path.
Related story: The pandemic has increased activity in parks and trails. Now, cities are using ARPA funds for outdoor recreation.
The US Treasury issued a final rule effective April 1, 2022 on how the funds could be spent. Eligible uses of ARPA funds replace lost public sector revenue, for public health and economic impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic, bonuses for essential workers, and investments in water, sewer and broadband infrastructure. The municipalities received the funds in two tranches, one last year and one this year.
A review of documents by The Day of area municipalities shows they have set aside ARPA dollars for water and sewer improvements, Wi-Fi and broadband upgrades , CVC, mental health services, food insecurity, nonprofits, small businesses, plans and studies and more, with community input through surveys and committees.
Over the next few weeks, The Day will review how the funds will be spent, starting with those allocated to outdoor recreation.
Total funds vary locally from $685,422 for Lyme to $26.3 million for New London and $28.8 million for Norwich.
While some municipalities allocated all or most of the funds, Lyme and Groton City ($2.6 million) did not take the final vote on how to use their funding.
North Stonington, which has allocated more than 98% of its $1.54 million in ARPA funds, was relatively quick when the finance board last July approved $220,000, with the largest expense being $165,000. to hire additional staff per day for the North Stonington Volunteer. Fire Company, which later had to be approved at a town meeting due to its size.
Other approvals at the time included $15,000 for the Ledge Light Health District, which asked all of its member municipalities for 1% of their ARPA dollars, and $15,000 for a municipal notification system for text messages and emails.
Those on the notification system reportedly received a text Monday with a reminder of the special town meeting that evening, where residents approved $100,000 in ARPA funds to help small businesses and $120,000 for expenses operation of the North Stonington Education Center. Both fell into the category of lost public sector revenue.
Additionally, $1 million has been allocated for the demolition of the old college wing and other projects.
According to Norwich’s budget for the financial year just started, which Council passed on June 6, around 84% of the funds have been allocated. New London City Council approved the first half of its funding in October and the second half last week, although final approvals for individual grants are subject to future council votes.
The City of Groton has allocated about 40% of its $8.59 million ARPA funds, starting last summer and fall with approval of $392,240 for Ledge Light, social services, l Hiring an ARPA coordinator and contributing to a Southeastern Connecticut Council of Governments coordinator. Another $3.05 million has been allocated in the current city budget.
The city has broken down its spending into the categories of economic development and resilience, infrastructure and transportation, parks and recreation, social services, arts and culture, and administration of ARPA and others.
Groton City Mayor Keith Hedrick said he wants to wait until the city’s budget is complete before ARPA’s review. The mayor said council is reviewing potential projects and will rank its priorities.
Municipalities had to balance a few competing desires: providing funds quickly to those who needed them, getting community feedback on how the money should be spent, and ensuring funds were allocated only for eligible purposes.
Waterford’s Representative Borough Assembly approved a plan for the city’s $5.5million one-off last August. The Public Utilities Commission receives the largest share of funds, with $1.2 million for the rehabilitation of the Fargo Lane water tower, $1.15 million for pump station upgrades on Cross Road and Old Norwich Road and $163,750 for the Gorman-Rupp 17. station pump control panels.
Stonington taxpayers approved the city’s $5.2 million allocation in one fell swoop at a town meeting last October.
Other cities have taken a more piecemeal approach. For example, Ledyard City Council has voted on various projects for its $4.32 million in ARPA funds on multiple dates since December, starting with funds for the Housing Rehab Grant program, putting new concrete flooring in the barn where the farmer’s market is held, and Thames Valley Council for Community Action, a regional social services agency.
Ledyard’s largest allocation, with funds committed on April 27, is $1.2 million for the first phase of the sewer line extension from Ledyard Center to Ledyard High School.
In East Lyme, ratepayers approved the first $1.6 million of its $5.46 million allocation in four different votes before the Board of Selectmen authorized the formation of a committee to guide decisions on spending the remaining $3.8 million. At a special meeting in April, residents approved a plan for the rest, with 12% of that amount going to small businesses and nonprofits and the rest to city services.
Old Lyme voters in March approved $41,622, for Ledge Light and the Social Services Discretionary Fund, and on July 5 will vote on the remaining $2,120,593.
Preston’s allocation is $1.37 million and residents are expected to vote on a plan for the most funds at a meeting Thursday.
Day staff writers Kimberly Drelich, Claire Bessette, Greg Smith and Joe Wojtas and Day contributors Armi Rowe and Carrie Czerwinski contributed to this report.