Pine Haven prepares ARPA app
January 12, 2023
Pine Haven’s council has not forgotten Boe Drive’s need of fire hydrants and the town’s need of that redundancy in the system. After the state declined to fund the endeavor through the last round of ARPA grants, the town is planning to reapply.
HDR Engineering’s Heath Turbiville discussed each question of the ARPA application and corresponding rules with the council at last week’s workshop as the group sought to provide answers that will better establish the town in the point system that now governs funding opportunities from the federal money.
The trouble seems to be the newly enforced point system; according to Turbiville, this system among other more subjective considerations has been in place for some time, but has been the only criteria determining eligibility for the federal dollars of the ARPA grant.
With far less money available than had been requested by the many applicants, only those entities with 16 or more points were recommended for the last round of ARPA funding. Pine Haven had only 13.
The financial ramifications from COVID are examined carefully in this application and, as the body considered the last three years, everything the town did because of the situation was recalled and noted including the 30% cut in the budget.
“Because,” Mayor Karla Brandenburg stated, “the state said they thought their budget could be cut by 30%, which means it would fall down to us, which obviously didn’t give us enough money to keep up with those projects”.
Council member Emily Smith added, “We’re also dealing with the higher price of things, not only the higher price we have to pay for the infrastructure and getting along, but the difficulty in getting them.”
Newly hired Clerk/Treasurer Tammie McGovern agreed, saying, “That includes help as well – the actual contractors, what used to take three months now takes 12. Everything’s gone up and delayed.”
Another COVID-related impact brought to their attention is the influx of people moving into town in an effort to avoid more populated areas.
After visiting these and each of the other questions thoroughly, the group was able to estimate a possible point increase from 13 to 18; however, a possibility for an extra point was raised.
Turbiville explained the points for each percent of the total funds requested that the town would be able to match: “Less than 5% match, you get 0 points; between 5% and 15%, it’s one point; between 16 and 25%, it’s two points; and then it keeps going up. If you are 50% or more, you get five points.”
Previously, the town had promised a 16% match, which amounts to $197,000; these funds are at hand and have been informally allocated to this endeavor.
If the town is willing to add $123,000 more from their coffers, bringing the match to $320,000, and if the state sees their estimated points as generously as has the council, their points will rise from 18 to 19, establishing the Boe Drive Project a place within the window of consideration.
Brandenburg summed up the gamble: “If they give us 18 points, we could be spending $123,000 that maybe we didn’t need to spend. If we lose it for one point, we could’ve spent $123,000 and gotten the grant.”
She voiced hesitancy to earmark more money from reserves, saying, “We’re going to need the money we have saved so if things come up [or we need to] maintain our roads.”
When the mayor asked for the thoughts of her council about the matter, newly elected member Suzette Edwards opined willingness to offer the added match to guarantee that extra point.
The question of the higher match was still in discussion as the meeting ended, but the town will be applying for the grant by resolution approved at Tuesday night’s meeting of council.
As of this article, there has been no decision made regarding the match amount.
With no assurance of receiving recommendation this time, either, Brandenburg asked Turbiville where else the town can go for the needed Boe Drive project funding if necessary.
Turbiville answered, “It’s called IIJA and it’s the infrastructure bill. They were expecting around spring time to begin the application process; that’s basically SRF (State Revolving Fund). What I’ve heard is there’s a potential for higher percentage of principal forgiveness, which is basically [a] grant. There’s going to be plenty of money there to be able to apply.”