Saunders presents ARPA fund allocation draft

Published 5:33 pm Friday, December 3, 2021

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Windsor Town Manager William Saunders presented the Town Council with a draft list of possible allocations of American Rescue Plan Act of 2021 funds during a Dec. 2 work session and also noted how some of the items fulfilled parts of the council’s 2021 strategic plan.

The town is set to receive a total of $2.07 million in ARPA funds in two equal portions.

Most of the items on the list Saunders drafted fell under four general categories, and for most items, he provided an estimate of the funds to be allocated.

One of the categories was “Necessary Investments in Infrastructure.” Suggested projects under this category included the Virginia Avenue/Duke Street Water Project, costing $750,000; other water projects, costing $325,000; stormwater projects, costing $300,000; sewer improvements in Windsor Woods, costing $100,000; and broadband expansion in rural areas of town, costing $65,000.

Saunders noted that all of these items tie into Action Item No. 1 of the strategic plan.

The category of “Premium Pay to Eligible Workers” had three items: public safety premium pay bonuses, costing $90,000; public safety premium pay retirement, with no cost listed as of yet; and essential worker premium pay bonuses, costing $50,000.

Saunders mentioned that the plan for public safety premium pay bonuses would translate to $5,000 per police officer for fiscal year 2022 and 2023. He noted the research continues on the bonuses for essential workers, but $2,500 per worker for FY 22 and FY 23 is proposed. He also noted the retirement item would address an increase in premiums/costs should the council approve enhanced benefits.

Council members discussed the possibility of giving Windsor’s volunteer firefighters and volunteer rescue squad workers bonuses.

Under the category of “Response to Public Health Emergency,” Saunders listed personal protective equipment and COVID-19-related improvements, costing $75,000; and E-Ticket, costing $35,000.

Windsor Police Chief Rodney “Dan” Riddle gave a brief presentation, explaining how these items would benefit the police department, including how E-Ticket would shorten traffic stops and reduce opportunities for the potential spread of the coronavirus by transitioning work away from paper.

The fourth and final category Saunders listed was “Government Services from Revenue Reduction.” This included Bank Street Park improvements, costing $75,000; and demolition of blighted buildings, costing $25,000.

When discussing the Bank Street Park improvements item, Saunders said, “This could be planning a park there, it could be some planning and some construction. This would provide more outdoor space for the public and prevent the mitigation and spread of COVID-19 by having more recreational outdoor space for the citizens of the town.

“It also ties into Action Item No. 11 in the strategic plan, and I categorized it here because of just that — I don’t know that without us having either that much loss in hospitality industry or having a qualified census tract that we could justify this other than using the revenue reduction section, which you have broader latitude with.”

The demolition of blighted buildings ties into Action Item No. 7 of the strategic plan.

Lastly, Saunders listed $100,000 of ARPA funds in a contingency line for cost overruns in any planned item or new items that are identified.

In council comments following Saunders’ presentation of his ARPA fund allocation draft, Councilwoman Kelly Blankenship brought up an inquiry about how Isle of Wight County will use its ARPA funds.

Saunders said, “They’re using it almost entirely to run water and sewer from the town of Smithfield to Hardy Elementary and I think two neighborhoods adjacent to Hardy Elementary.”

Blankenship said she was surprised there was not a new business grant or gift card program mentioned as opposed to the heavy focus on infrastructure.

“I was hoping the county was doing some of those things that we could share in those programs,” she said.

She also commented briefly on the strategic plan.

“We really need to figure out how to get a planning person on staff, because there’s a lot of stuff in this strategic plan that isn’t going to go anywhere until we have a planning person involved that can work with the (Economic Development Authority) to try to further some of these things along,” she said.

Near the conclusion of the work session, Councilman George Stubbs said, “I think with everything that we’ve discussed, I’ll make a motion that what we should do is adjourn at this point, take a look at everything that’s been presented to us, if you’ve got any ideas or anything additional to what the town manager has said, give that information to him or provide it to him later, and let’s meet at a later date and discuss where we’re at.”

Saunders said, “Also, in addition to telling me what you might want me to add to the list, tell me if there is something you specifically think should come off of it.”

Council members agreed to meet again on the subject in January.