BURRILLVILLE – The town may not be able to fund every request submitted for funding through the American Rescue Plan Act, but with more than $5 million to be doled out for infrastructure improvements, broadband services, businesses and non-profits, Burrillville Town Councilors noted this week that the money will have a significant impact on the community.
The board held a final public hearing on how to spend the federal funding on Wednesday, March 9, a date that also served as a deadline for those who hoped to apply. Subcommittees have been appointed to address each of the four categories of eligible projects, and last week, representatives from each group reported on their progress.
“Everything we have has been assigned out to a subcommittee with the exception of a few,” said Town Manager Michael Wood. “We are not ready yet, obviously, to make a decision on all of the projects, but we can have the subcommittee report back to the full council to say what they’ve looked at so far, what the approximate budget numbers are.”
The town has committed roughly $300,000 of Burrillville’s $5.15 million in ARPA funding to two time-sensitive projects to address needed upgrades to the town’s emergency radio dispatch system, and for Spring Lake Beach.
“We have a whole bunch of other potential expenditures,” Wood said.
Wood noted that in addition to the $5 million, the town may be eligible for grants or matching funds from a number of state agencies.
“There’s so many things out there,” he said. “Every agency in the state has additional money.”
Public Works Director Jeff McCormick spoke on behalf of the “infrastructure,” category, expected to ultimately account for the bulk of the spending. McCormick noted that there’s a deadline this month to submit projects to be placed on a statewide priority list, and he submitted several proposals to extend sewer and water lines in Burrillville, as well as plans to address culverts and dams.
“It’s kind of a wish list,” McCormick said. “We want to get those projects on the priority list.”
Some town entities – such as the Harrisville Water District and the Pascoag Utility District – were required to submit projects individually.
“I think, as a town, Mike’s reached out to all of these people. We’re on it,” McCormick said. “We’ll get all of these projects in. I don’t know how many towns are going to be able to pull all of these together and get them in.”
In the area of broadband, the town has been looking at expanding services to housing complexes.
“We’re looking at providing them improved service to the facility,” Wood said.
Planner Ray Goff spoke on behalf of the economic development and business subcommittee, noting that the group did not receive many submissions despite outreach efforts.
“We didn’t get much response,” Goff said. “I was hoping for more response from businesses.”
“Most business owners are preoccupied with running their businesses,” Council President Donald Fox replied. “You’re going to be hard-pressed to get businesses to come forward. We all lost revenue. They’re busy trying to recover from the pandemic.”
Wood noted that the town still has time to develop a plan to help the business community. The federal deadline for commitment of ARPA funds is December 31 of 2024.
Recreation Director Andrea Hall said that the non-profit subcommittee held a, “meet and greet,” night, and has received many submissions for relatively small amounts of funding.
“I think all and all, we had a decent response,” Hall said. “They just want to recoup losses.”
Councilor Raymond Trinque noted that with requests for less than $10,000, non-profits would make a good fit for targeted aid to the community.
“When you read through them, it’s going to make a good impact,” Trinque said. “You can do a lot of good and give these non-profits what they need.”
Wood noted that the town may need to hire a consultant to help with all of the required paperwork.
“There’s a lot of requirements to follow in order to be able to qualify the businesses and to follow through to the end where they actually get the funds, account for the funds and account for the money with the federal government,” Wood said. “That’s a lot of time-consuming work that we don’t really have the time for. We can’t do it ourselves.”
Fox noted that are towns in Rhode Island are likely in the same situation.
“It behooves us not to rush in,” Fox said.
Wood noted that the town can’t wait too long as the multitude of projects from varying municipalities could create a backlog for permitting.
“This is all brand new stuff even to the consultants,” Wood said. “There’s a lot of details.”
Fox said he’s most in favor of projects that will impact the whole community.
“As we look at this money it’s going to be difficult to comb through all of the submissions,” Fox said. “This is a once-in-lifetime influx of money.”
“There’s a lot of money being requested,” Wood agreed. “You’re going to have to make a lot of hard decisions about where you want to put the money, where you want to spend it.”
The complete list of public input and requests can be found here. The council is expected to begin voting on projects to approve for funding in the coming weeks.