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Elkins looks at uses for federal funds

$2.9M coming from Rescue Plan Act

ELKINS — Elkins City Council is developing a strategy plan about how to use the millions of dollars it is set to receive from the American Rescue Plan Act.

The plan, which was signed last month, will send $677 million to West Virginia’s municipal governments. The City of Elkins is set to receive around $2.9 million, which was determined based on census data collected by the federal government.

“I sent a memo to the council, mayor and administrative officers that outlined a proposal to consider the American Rescue Plan Act funds that the city is anticipated to receive,” City Clerk Jessica Sutton said during a presentation at this week’s Elkins City Council meeting. “What this memo lays out is a proposal to have some guidance and framework as we move forward in making decisions about the best use for this money.”

Sutton said the memo also suggested that the uses be broken into three categories — Deferred Maintenance, Leveling Up and Blue Sky.

Deferred Maintenance is based on facility and infrastructure work that has been postponed over time because of a lack of funds. Leveling Up involves improving existing facilities and programs, including build outs. Blue Sky involves projects that the city has had an interest in doing but did not seem possible because the funding wasn’t available.

“The intent of developing this kind of framework now is so that we have a path forward,” Sutton said. “So when this money comes we have some guidance to work within as the council makes decisions about how to spend this money. This allows us to have something to move forward with. Because if we go into this blind, I think it’s going to make it that much more difficult to make these decisions.”

Sutton said the framework would also include multiple opportunities for the public to provide input.

“We haven’t laid out yet how we are going to do that (get the public input) and of course it will be subject to council’s review and approval,” Sutton said. “But some suggestions we have considered are traditional methods like public comments at meetings. But we want to be able to offer opportunities for a roundtable type discussion and interaction with the community. So those are some things we hope to develop over time.”

Sutton also pointed out the memo also suggested gathering input from members of the community that have expertise in certain areas, such as community planning, infrastructure, finance and business.

“This is a windfall and it’s probably only going to happen once in our lifetime,” Sutton said. “So it’s really important to make sure the money is spent or done so in a way that it doesn’t impose future expenditures that aren’t part of our regular revenue stream.

“So you don’t want to build a new building that requires maintenance long term that we can’t afford (or) implement a new program that then requires money down the road that we don’t have.”

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