UPDATED, Sept. 23: Town Manager Adam Chapdelaine presented to the Select Board on Monday, Sept. 20 Arlington’s updated proposed allocations for American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funding and heard suggestions about what the priorities should be.
Board member Diane Mahon made a strong pitch for allocating more than $1.5 million for essential workers and received support from one colleague, John Hurd.
The discussion will continue Oct. 13, but likely will not be set in stone by then. The initial plan to spend $34 million has increased to $35.25 million. See the updated spending plan here >>
ARPA funding provides state and local governments an opportunity to invest in assets, rebuild reserves to enhance financial stability, and cover temporary operating shortfalls until economic conditions and operations normalize.
“This is an incredible funding source for municipalities across the country, including Arlington, as we recover from the pandemic. These allocations enable significant lasting impacts for our community, and address the negative economic impacts caused by the public health emergency.
“The funds will enable us to rehire public-sector workers and provide aid to households facing food, housing or other financial insecurity. It will aid the communities and populations hardest hit by the crisis, supporting an equitable recovery by addressing the pandemic's immediate harms and its exacerbation of longstanding public health and economic needs.
“We’ll be able to invest in water, sewer and broadband infrastructure; improve access to clean drinking water; support vital wastewater and storm water infrastructures; and expand access to broadband internet.
“ARPA also supports public health expenditures by funding Covid-19 mitigation efforts, medical expenses, behavioral healthcare, mental health and sustained misuses treatment, and certain public health and safety personnel responding to crises,” explained Chapdelaine.
Funding decisions will likely be made next month
“We’re still receiving updates from the treasury, and still in a period of time of getting this right. There’s almost a guarantee that we’ll make changes to the allocations from future discussions,” said Chapdelaine.
“This is a big sum of money, and another discussion would be beneficial. We’ll likely not have something cemented in stone at our next meeting on Oct. 13, but have a framework in which to develop our plans,” added Chapdelaine. The Select Board meets again on Oct. 25.
Select Board feedback
Board Chair Steve DeCourcey said, “This funding comprises essentially four categories ― public-health emergencies, premium pay, revenue loss and infrastructure ― and I’d like to ask the town manager to break out the items within each of these four categories. Who’s identified as an essential worker, and what are the limitations? It’s important to get that out on the table.”
Board member Eric Helmuth said: “These are competing, worthy priorities. It seems like a lot of money until you realize it isn’t, because the need is so big. The need for parks and playgrounds in a pandemic is huge, and it would be great to fund playgrounds not just when things break. Investments in affordable housing and Food Link are also appealing, to help our most vulnerable.”
Mahon said, “One of the keys of ARPA funds is for essential workers ― people who cannot work from home ― to address the sacrifices they made. Union workers are being treated unfairly, and I want to give them the maximum. Fire, police and DPW workers put their lives, and their family’s lives, on the line, when our other workers can work from home, and get additional stipends. Why are we not giving it back to them? We need to stand up for all of our town workers.”
Hurd said: “I’m interested in looking at increasing essential workers’ premium pay for what they did during the pandemic. I’d also like to allocate HVAC to make sure all our schools and workplaces are air-conditioned.”
Board member Len Diggins suggested having a mechanism for scoring applications, “so we have a way, as objectively as possible, to score the applications that come in, so that it isn’t a matter of the loudest voices getting what they want.”
Diggins also supports the work by Food Link and Arlington EATS to address food insecurity, as well as funding to reduce water and sewer rates.
Arlington residents weighed in.
Beth Locke, Arlington Chamber of Commerce executive director: “I’m pleased to see allocations toward businesses. This community has been very adversely affected by the pandemic. The quality and livelihood of our businesses, and strength of our main street, are important to the town.”
Robert Dustin, Local 1297 Firefighters Union president: “Everyone at the fire department has shown up every day, done their job and gone out on every call. We ask that you raise the amount of money earmarked for us by the president to reflect that.”
Firefighter Martin Conroy: “I want to thank Ms. Mahon’s words of encouragement and support. We’re prepared, and willing to do everything we’re called on to do. Our brothers and sisters in the police department were also right there in the thick of things.”
Steve Moore: “I’m disheartened by some of Ms. Mahon’s comments. Drawing lines between essential and nonessential, union and nonunion, highly paid and non-highly paid workers in town doesn’t help, and seems parochial and one-sided. We need to cover a lot of interests with this funding.”
Beth Melofchik, Precinct 9 meeting member: “I’m thankful that Ms. Mahon advocates for first responders. These essential workers knew little about the disease except that it’s deadly, yet still continued to do their jobs. Teachers also faced a lot in the beginning, so perhaps some part of the reserves should be for teachers. I’m also thankful that Mr. Hurd brought up the air quality with HVAC for schools and workplaces.”
See the entire Sept. 20 broadcast on ACMi:
Sept. 18, 2021: Proposed precinct reduction spurs opposition
This news summary by YourArlington freelancer Susan Gilbert on Wednesday, Sept. 22, 2021, and updated Sept 23, to add comments by Diggins and to add ACMi video window.
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