Select board members in the Mad River Valley towns are considering how they might spend the windfall of federal Coronavirus American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funds but can’t take definitive action until the federal government finalizes the spending guidelines.
Local towns will receive funds that range from $390,000 to $1.5 million.
In Waitsfield, the town will receive $506, 081. The select board has been exploring how the town might spend the funds and this week heard a request from the planning commission to allocate funds for a water, wastewater analysis. (See story Page 7.) Town administrator Annie Decker Dell’Isola noted that the town is also exploring whether it can qualify for water/wastewater ARPA funds that the Vermont Agency of Natural Resources has received which would allow the town to use its own funds on other projects.
Water, wastewater and stormwater are areas where Vermont towns know that they’ll be able to use ARPA funding. Another area that has been identified as a qualifying use for the funds is housing support and affordable housing. Decker-Dell’Isola said that the select board has discussed whether some of the ARPA funding could be leveraged by teaming up with other towns to make the greatest impact.
(The Mad River Valley Affordable Housing Coalition is currently meeting with select boards in Warren, Waitsfield and Fayston to explain a proposal to create a housing trust fund that would be financed by a combination of philanthropy, a potential 1 cent increase in municipal tax rates and registration fees for short-term rentals.)
“The board will keep this item on its agenda and there will definitely be opportunities for folks to engage in the conversation about how those funds should be spent. There will be outreach to partner groups as well,” she said.
Fayston will receive $397,571 in ARPA funds and select board chair Jared Cadwell said the town is likewise awaiting federal guidance as well as guidance from the Vermont League of Cities and Town.
“We’ve talked about it at a few meetings, and we’re trying to raise the public’s interest in how the town might spend the money,” Cadwell said.
He said federal guidance is clear on some areas where towns can spend money, including cybersecurity.
“Cybersecurity is a priority. We also know that stormwater and wastewater are priority areas so we’re interested in improving cybersecurity for town records, data protection and firewalls. We’re also looking at the Lake Champlain Clean Water Initiative and how the Mad River contributes sediment and where town culverts might be upgraded to lower the amount of sediment that gets from our streams to the Mad River,” he said.
Specifically, he mentioned a culvert on Randell Road where the beaver population continues to use the culvert as a build site for their dams.
“They’re amazing the way they build,” he said, pointing out that the beaver baffles that were installed to discourage dam building there had been deconstructed by the beavers and used to build dams.
“We’d have to open up the culvert and I think we could do a good thing up there by upgrading it and preserving the ecology of the beaver meadows. But that might use up the majority of our funding on one project,” Cadwell said.
Moretown will receive $497,711. Select board assistant Sasha Elwell-Badore said, though the board has discussed using some of the funds for CV Fiber to implement high-speed internet in the town, no decisions have yet been made. She said they are waiting until they receive federal guidance and want to be sure they do it correctly.
In Warren, the town anticipates receiving $499,505. “We have had preliminary discussions about the ARPA funds but no decisions. We plan to have some kind of town-wide process to identify ideas for projects and discerning of needs. We know that we have a long timeline to make these decisions and to spend the funds,” said select board chair Andrew Cunningham.
Duxbury will receive $390,098. According to Mari Pratt, chair of the Duxbury Select Board, the board has discussed a variety of items for possible use of the ARPA funds, including modernizing recordkeeping, upgrading the generator for the Emergency Operations Center at the town garage, radio repeater repair, new communication equipment for meetings, a portable building to protect the outdoor working members of the Board of Civil Authority, a stormwater management plan for the bottom of Ward Hill to help protect the Mad River from runoff and work on the entrance to the town forest off Hart Road.
Select board assistant Ray Doherty said the board’s priorities are as follows:
1) Radio repeater system for the town road crew. This would enhance the town's ability to respond to emergencies such as road washouts, downed trees and power lines, medical emergencies, etc.
2) Digitalization of town records. This would help residents research and view town records such as ownership and tax records, deeds, tax assessments, property easements, etc.
3) HVAC and HEPA ventilation and filtration systems for town offices.
4) Ward Hill Road mitigation: this would correct severe drainage and runoff issues which occur after flooding events and other natural disasters. The project would also protect local rivers, streams and watersheds from nonpoint pollution due to runoff.