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Elkins Council makes ARPA funds decisions

ELKINS — Elkins City Council has made decisions about how to use some of the $3 million in American Rescue Plan Act the city is receiving.

At the most recent council meeting, Finance Committee Chair Mike Hinchman talked about recommendations from council’s ad hoc ARPA Advisory Committee

“The ARPA Committee moved to give the addiction and the homeless $5,000, and the (city) clerk’s office, we moved to redo the website, which is approximately $10,000, and also agenda software, both coming to about $31,000,” Hinchman said.

That motion included $21,350 for the first three years’ cost of a software platform to enable automated subscriptions, notifications and online access to council, and committee agendas, meeting minutes and packets for the public.

City Clerk Jessica Sutton added, “Also included was the recommendations from the most recent meeting for 5% to be applied for sewer and water assessments, and 5% for community requests.”

The funding requests from community organizations must fall into approved expenditure categories under the ARPA guidelines.

Councilman Charlie Friddle said, “I have several questions. How much is 5%?”

“About $154,000,” Sutton responded.

“And how will the $5,000 for the homeless be spent?” Friddle asked.

Mayor Jerry Marco explained that the $5,000 will go to the mayor’s Addiction and Homelessness Task Force for the purpose of training peer recovery coaches to assist persons with substance abuse disorder in seeking treatment.

“We’re actually looking at the peer recovery support specialist, which is kind of the linchpin, so these are the individuals that will interact with the citizens that we have that are suffering addiction,” Marco said. “So when our first responders go out and encounter somebody and they’re asking for help, these individuals come out. So it’s for training for those individuals. It’s a model that is used throughout the state right now.”

“And who are those people?” Friddle asked.

“We’re looking to identify them now,” Marco said. “We have two on board and we’re hoping to identify 10.”

Council voted unanimously to approve the motion.

Elkins City Council has now allocated 47 percent of the total $3 million ARPA disbursement, with much of that funding already reserved for long overdue repairs and upgrades to the city’s water system. Council previously reserved funds for an engineering assessment to prioritize additional pressing water and sewer projects.

Marco said the city’s infrastructure needs exceed the $3 million ARPA disbursement, so council doesn’t have the luxury much of the funds for non-essential work.

“It would be wonderful if we could use ARPA money for a bunch of new facilities and programs and really build out what we’re currently providing to the people of Elkins,” Marco said. “Unfortunately, we have a lot of deferred maintenance and other really urgent work that it would be irresponsible to postpone.”

Council has so far decided to spend around $650,000 in ARPA funds on equipment and initial supplies needed to replace water lines and correct deficiencies that have been identified at the water treatment plant.

Another $450,000 is reserved for City Hall projects that will be planned in coordination with council’s Municipal Properties Committee. Officials said these projects may include the installation of a generator to provide power for the police department and other essential city services during emergencies, as well as making City Hall more accessible for all citizens, such as by installing an ADA-compliant wheelchair ramp and an elevator approved for passenger use.

ARPA funds are being distributed in two equal disbursements, half in 2021 and half in 2022. The City of Elkins received its initial ARPA funding this summer.

ARPA funds cannot be used to cover expenditures made prior to March 3, 2021. Funds must be obligated no later than Dec. 31, 2024, and expenditures to cover those obligations must occur no later than Dec. 31, 2026.

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