Council Considers Use Of ARPA Funds For Projects

BERLIN – Municipal officials this week discussed a growing list of projects to be paid for with the town’s $4.7 million in federal recovery funds.

The Berlin Town Council on Monday talked about potential projects that could be funded with the town’s $4.7 million in American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funds. The town has already received half the money and is expected to receive the other half later this year.

“We’ll work internally to develop a spending plan,” Mayor Zack Tyndall said.

According to staff, ARPA funds can be used to replace lost revenue, support COVID-19 public health and economic response, premium pay for eligible workers or investing in water, sewer and broadband infrastructure.

“This body has heard from the public with regard to ways to allocate that funding,” Tyndall said. “We’ve also had some internal discussions and received some emails from the group which is why it’s set up as a discussion item for this evening.”

The town already committed to spending $1 million of its ARPA funds on smart water meters, $110,000 for a stormwater project on Washington Street and $350,000 for a new well. Other potential expenditures Tyndall brought up Monday included handheld radios for police that could be used during storms, an audio-visual system for council chambers, digitizing documents and premium pay.

Tyndall said the town’s planning department had suggested a growth discussion, which could be done in conjunction with the strategic plan that was cut from last year’s budget.

“It’s not in the budget currently but I would like to see a strategic plan added,” he said.

In addition, Tyndall said the Berlin Fire Company had requested ARPA funds to pay for self-contained breathing apparatus and cardiac monitors.

Councilman Jay Knerr asked about replacing the aging Broad Street lift station.

Jamey Latchum, the town’s stormwater and wastewater superintendent, said the last time it had received extensive work was in the 1970s and that some of the equipment dated back to 1934.

“It’s a waiting time bomb for something catastrophic to happen to it,” he said.

Latchum added that town employees had to perform maintenance at the facility twice a day now because of its age. When asked what would happen if the station failed, Latchum said the town could have to pump and haul to the town’s wastewater treatment plant.

Councilman Jack Orris suggested the town start drafting a request for proposals to replace the lift station.

“I think the lift station is probably one of the top priorities,” he said.

Councilwoman Shaneka Nichols agreed that some smaller projects, such as the radios for police and audio-visual equipment, could wait when there were more urgent projects. She suggested the town develop a list of items that needed to be acted upon immediately.

Councilman Dean Burrell said he wanted to use some of the ARPA money to provide staff with premium pay. Tyndall said that was being explored.

Berlin Fire Company President David Fitzgerald urged the council to remember the fire company’s need for new cardiac monitors.

“That would save somebody’s life,” he said.

Tyndall said he’d develop a list of projects proposed to be funded with ARPA money to include with his upcoming budget presentation. Resident Carol Rose encouraged the mayor to take staff recommendations such as the replacement of the lift station into consideration.

“We know what we need in this town. Let’s do it,” she said. “Listen to your people.”

Tyndall said he’d present a list of ARPA projects at the next meeting, which is when he’ll also introduce the proposed budget for the coming fiscal year.

About The Author: Charlene Sharpe

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Charlene Sharpe has been with The Dispatch since 2014. A graduate of Stephen Decatur High School and the University of Richmond, she spent seven years with the Delmarva Media Group before joining the team at The Dispatch.