Burrillville officials schedule final hearings on how to spend millions in ARPA funding

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BURRILLVILLE – Since last fall, town officials have been soliciting ideas from residents and organizations on how to spend the roughly $5 million in American Rescue Plan Act funding allotted to Burrillville by the federal government. Dozens of submissions on ideas for improvements to infrastructure, help for ailing businesses, economic development and more are now under review by various subcommittees.

And soon, the submission process will come to a close, and town officials will need to decide where to allocate Burrillville’s portion of the $350 billion emergency spending package launched early last year by the U.S. Department of the Treasury to target pandemic recovery. 

Town Manager Michael Wood said that the Burrillville Town Council will hold one more hearing where in-person comments can be submitted at the end of this month, and a last opportunity for public testimony with comments taken via Zoom on Wednesday, March 9.

Online applications will also remain open through that final hearing date.

The town has created separate discussion groups focused on infrastructure, broad band economic development/ business and non-profit/social programs

“All of the subcommittees are still working, and there will be some public and some private meetings,” Wood told members of the council last week. “When people submit their application in to us, we’ll still take them in, even up until the last day of the public hearing.”

A document published by the town last year lays out several of the ideas with varied levels of detail, with some including comments from reviewers. Among them are requests for improvements to Hauser Park in Pascoag, and the expansion of Burrillville’s water and sewer lines.

But Town Clerk Vicki Martin said many more submissions have come in since the file was last updated.

Eligible projects in each community can address utility infrastructure improvements, travel/tourism, non-profit grants and more, and complete information on the town’s process for public input can be found here.

The funding is not eligible for use by schools, with districts across the country each receiving a separate allocation.

Municipalities have until the end of 2024 to allocate the federal money, and until the end of 2026 to actually spend their share. In Burrillville, decision are on track to be made much sooner.

“I don’t think it will be wrapped up by March,” Martin said, noting that any submissions that come in at the public hearing March 9 will have to go before subcommittees for review. “I think the plan is to try to get a report to the council for a vote shortly after that.”

Martin noted that the best way to submit a proposal is through the online form, which she receives first.

But there are also still opportunities for those who would prefer to make their case in person.

“The person can either come to a meeting like this one and make a presentation – make his pitch – go to the subcommittee meetings, or we would like them to formally submit something explaining what (they’re) trying to do so we can fit it into the categories for the subcommittees and where it fits in the ARPA program,” said Wood. “Not everything qualifies under the ARPA program.”

Nonprofit organizations that would like to submit a proposal for funding are asked to identifying the harm to their group caused by Covid-19; describe the effects of that harm; and explain how the proposed project, initiative or program will respond to the effects of the harm.

Town Council President Donald Fox said that so far, the process for hearing public input has been going well.

“It was good to see additional input from residents and different agencies,” Fox said. “It’s good to see that continuing.”

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