FARMINGTON — With the release of final rules for the American Rescue Plan Act funds, the select board is looking at options for utilizing the funds the town has received.
The town just shy of $820,000, according to town manager Christian Waller.
ARPA funds are intended to respond to public health and economic impacts caused by the pandemic. This can include public health and safety measures, COVID-19 ‘hazard pay,’ infrastructure improvements, education investments, and mental health investments.
Because of the nature of the funds, members of the board expressed interest in one-time funding opportunities or projects that would not carry a continuing funding obligation once the ARPA funds were expended.
Stephan Bunker identified several projects that he considered priorities. These included a homeless shelter, a domestic violence shelter, a proposal from Tri County Mental Health for additional one-time funding, and hazard pay for the town employees.
Joshua Bell saw the community center roof and air handling system as a high priority; the roof will need to be replaced sooner than later and using the ARPA funds could help alleviate some of the burden on the taxpayers. The air handling system would be covered under the APRA guidelines; the roof itself may be an eligible project because of the community and mental health benefits that the center offers. Waller mentioned that they could discuss potential projects with a federal project officer to determine project eligibility.
Scott Landry felt that a hazard pay or premium pay should be number one on their list. “Everybody does a lot, and none of them are overpaid,” Landry said. “And they’ve stuck with us.”
There are several different options for determining a hazard payment: presumed level of risk, the time frame worked, seniority, or standardized payments across the board.
“You want to recognize [town employees] in an honest, heart-felt way — which is money,” Michael Fogg said.
The board requested that Waller create a handful of potential scenarios that they could use as a starting point for the conversation around hazard pay.
Bell made a motion to move forward with a preliminary engineering and design request for the community center roof and the upgrades to the air handling systems for the municipal office and the community center. The board unanimously approved the motion.
The discussion around ARPA funds will continue.