Commercial Record

Douglas Has Multiple ARP Demands

BY SCOTT SULLIVAN EDITOR

The good news is Douglas has half its federal $140,779 American Rescue Plan dollars allotted through the state’s Coronavirus Local Fiscal Recovery Fund, with balance due in September 2022.

The less-good news? “We have many competing projects and needs,” city manager Rich LaBombard told council Monday.

The ARPA, passed March 11 last year, permits the City to use CLFRF to cover eligible costs incurred starting March 3, 2021 and obligated by Dec. 31, 2024. The money must be spent by Dec. 31, 2026.

Eligible costs are split into four broad categories, said LaBombard:

1) Response to the public health emergency or its negative economic impacts,

2) Recovery of revenue losses from the Covid-19 pandemic,

3) Premium pay, and

4) Investments in water, sewer and broadband infrastructure. Council favors spending the so-called windfall in this manner.

The U.S. Treasury Department issued final rules regarding grant requirements Jan. 7, the manager continued. One of the biggest changes is a standard allowance of $10 million of revenue loss, the broadest and least-restrictive category that can be used in that it must be spent on services local governments typically provide, eg. insfrastructure. It is also subject to streamlined reporting, LaBombard said.

In light of this, he went on, it may be in the city’s best interest to apply ARPA funds to the revenue loss category and the current fiscal year’s $1.5 million for major road projects including resurfacing portions of Randolph Street, St. Peters Drive, Westshore Drive, Main Street and Blue Star Highway as well as construction of the nonmotorized path on the north side of Wiley Road.

The general fund contribution to these projects, said LaBombard, could be reduced, resulting in a higher general fund balance that could be spent on infrastructure in the future but not subject to grant restrictions on time and eligible uses.

Council agreed with his recommendation to divvy the money this way. Alternatively Douglas could have continued on track to use funds under the infrastructure category, but would have to reach a conclusion on the specific project(s) for which these funds would be earmarked.

Using the funds in the revenue loss category buys time for council to hear from constituents, assess neighborhoods’ willingness to participate in special assessment districts to help share costs of their projects, and have engineers do research.

There is no lack of candidates for those dollars, including water and sewer needs at the following sites as discussed by council, the city engineer and Kalamazoo Lake Sewer & Water Authority manager during Monday’s pre-meeting workshop:

• Crest Street sanitary sewer issues, including one house built over a force main. An easement is in place.

• Parkside Lane, which has a longstanding issue with the privately-owned lift station not built to standards. Its electric panel needs to be upgraded for continuity of service.

• Hidden Waters has multiple issues, among them its sanitary sewer lift station, street in of resurfacing and a water main that needs looping to avoid a dead-end main. Control structure maintenance at the water crossing may be an issue.

• Van Dragt Dam south of Wiley Road. An emergency plan and state oversight are needed. City staff has spoken with the Allegan County Drain Commissioner about adding the area to a drainage district.

• Felkers has multiple utility issues the city has begun to resolve with a new water main on Whittier and First streets. Still needed: continue water main extension at First and May Streets, a storm sewer and sanitary sewer extension, and to resurface streets.

• Fremont Street has “spaghetti lines”: illicit water connections crossing private property without recorded easements or service serving multiple residents off one tap.

• Water Street has had storm water improvements made, however more needs doing regarding outfall on South and Randolph streets, plus added curb and gutter to manage runoff and erosion control on its west side.

• The Main-Washington-Gerber streets water main needs relocating into the public right of way.

See your project on there?

Now may be an opportune to sound out neighbors’ support and communicate that to city staff.

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