Elkins ARPA Committee Awards $154,000 for Community Projects
On Wednesday, a city council committee approved more than $150,000 in American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funds for 11 projects proposed by community organizations, including the Elkins-Randolph County YMCA, the Randolph County Humane Society, the Elkins Farmers Market, and Meals on Wheels.
Elkins officials learned in early 2021 that the city had been awarded $3.08 million under the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021, with half to be disbursed in 2021 and half in 2022. The mayor ordered formation of an ad hoc ARPA Advisory Committee with membership comprising the chairs of council’s five standing committees: Mike Hinchman (Finance Committee), Marilynn Cuonzo (Municipal Properties Committee), Rob Chenoweth (Personnel Committee), David Parker (Public Safety Committee), and Nanci Bross-Fregonara (Rules & Ordinances).
Prior to Wednesday’s meeting, the ARPA Advisory Committee had recommended, and council had approved, some $1.6 million in ARPA expenditures, including for the retention of an engineer to plan systemwide improvements to the city’s water and sewer infrastructure; the purchase of essential supplies and heavy equipment for the city’s sewer, water, and street departments; software upgrades at the water and wastewater treatment plants; ADA and fire-protection upgrades at city hall; training for peer recovery support specialists requested by the mayor’s Addiction and Homelessness Task Force; and rubber mulch for city playgrounds.
In addition, council reserved five percent (approximately $154,000) of the city’s total ARPA award for eligible community-based requests and authorized the ARPA Advisory Committee to make final distribution decisions for this money. These were the funds being disbursed at Wednesday’s meeting.
Applications for these community requests were accepted via an online form through February 28. Applicants were asked to describe their proposed projects; explain why these projects would constitute an appropriate use of ARPA funds; identify specific demographics their projects will benefit; and estimate total costs. Finally, applicants were asked to connect their projects to goals in the city’s 2018-2023 Strategic Plan, if possible.
The city received 22 community proposals. The total of all 22 project budgets was $516,013.66, or $361,767.66 more than the $154,246 allocated by council.
All submitted applications were reviewed by the committee at Wednesday’s meeting. In reviewing proposals, the committee considered many factors, including long-term viability and whether projects duplicated services or facilities already available in the area.
Appearing in support of their applications were representatives of the Elkins Babe Ruth League (request: $50,000 toward new concrete bleachers/stairs for Robin Harvey Field at Bluegrass Park); Davis & Elkins College (request: $50,000 toward new outdoor amphitheater for community concerts and events); and Randolph County Humane Society (request: $20,000 toward its trap/neuter/release program).
After extensive discussion, the committee approved disbursements for the following 11 projects and in the following amounts: Elkins-Randolph County YMCA (youth center bathroom; $5,000); Davis & Elkins College (new amphitheater; $43,746); Randolph County Humane Society (trap/neuter/release program; $17,000); Randolph County Homeless Shelter (security upgrades; $3,000); Meals on Wheels (meal delivery program; $7,000); Our Town (free public activities and events; $3,000); YouthBuild (operating funds; $15,000); Elkins Babe Ruth League (Bluegrass Park bleachers; $50,000); Elkins Farmers Market (equipment, supplies, and marketing; $5,000); Randolph County Community Arts Center (enhanced fine-arts exhibit capabilities; $5,000); Old Brick Playhouse (sound system; $8,000).
Several project proposals were classified as ineligible for the community-proposed category, because—although requested by community organizations—they would have resulted in improvements to city property. These included requests by the Kump Education Center for $5,000 toward construction of an outdoor education pavilion and Woodlands Development Group for $48,000 toward improvements in the Seneca Mall parking lot in support of that nonprofit’s $16 million project to renovate the historic Tygart Hotel building. (The Kump House and the Seneca Mall parking lot are both owned by City of Elkins.) Committee members agreed to refer the Woodlands request to full council for consideration, outside of the community-proposed projects category. The city’s operations manager, Josh Sanson, said that he would secure resources for the Kump Education Center project, either from within the existing Operations Department budget or by submitting a separate internal ARPA request.
Although the Bluegrass Park bleacher project would also result in improvements to city-owned property, the committee approved the contribution of the final $50,000 needed to fully fund a total project cost of $173,000 because a binding construction bid was set to expire Friday. Babe Ruth League officials present at the meeting expressed concern that, given current skyrocketing increases in the prices of construction materials, failure to fully fund the project this week could result in substantially higher costs.
Organizations awarded ARPA funds are considered subrecipients under the authorizing federal legislation and so must follow all the same documentation requirements and are subject to the same audits as City of Elkins. If auditors were to find that a project was not eligible for ARPA funds, the federal government could require repayment.
For more information about the city’s ARPA award, including amounts allocated to date, see: www.cityofelkinswv.com/arpa-funds.