City council discusses priorities for ARPA funding in Harrisonburg

Published: Nov. 16, 2021 at 9:33 PM EST
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HARRISONBURG, Va. (WHSV) - Harrisonburg City Council broke down its top priorities Tuesday night for the nearly $24 million going to the Friendly City from the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funding via the federal government.

The City of Harrisonburg already got its first allocation of ARPA funding. The money will be paid in two equal allotments. The first was already received and the next will be on the way in May 2022.

The purpose of this funding is to help localities impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. The money should support urgent COVID-19 response efforts, help replace lost revenue to strengthen public services and help retain jobs in the community, as well as support economic stabilization for both households and businesses.

Funding must be obligated by Dec 31, 2024, and fully spent by Dec. 31, 2026.

City council will have the final say in where and who the money goes to, but City of Harrisonburg staff did have proposals for city projects they recommend to be considered for immediate funding through the first allotment of money.

Those recommendations include construction of a new fire station 5, construction of a new Public Works Administrative Building, construction of a facility to serve as a homeless shelter and updating the “uninterruptible power supply” for Harrisonburg-Rockingham Emergency Communications Center. The HRECC update costs would be equally divided between Harrisonburg and Rockingham County.

Harrisonburg City Manager Eric Campbell presented those recommendations to the council on Tuesday night and included 16 remaining city projects to be considered for funding through the second allotment of money.

A few of those recommendations were replacing the Kids Castle at Purcell Park, development at the Smithland Athletic Complex, upgrading sidewalks, premium pay for essential city employees, and COVID-19 recovery grants for businesses and nonprofits.

The five council members had a lengthy discussion on their priorities for the funding, which ranged from investing in the Northeast neighborhood, addressing childcare and homeless needs, funding for victims’ services, and development at the Smithland Athletic Complex.

“What I’m hearing is, the council has some other projects they want to put on the city project list,” Campbell said. “We will just have to go back and look at those and bring them back to you on [Nov.] 30.”

While no votes were made on how to spend the millions of dollars on Tuesday night, the council did agree to hire a temporary ARPA Grant Coordinator to assist the council and city in spending the federal dollars.

They also agreed to ask the Harrisonburg-Rockingham Chamber of Commerce to work with the community, nonprofits and businesses, and coordinate with James Madison University to facility community engagement on how people in Harrisonburg would like to see the millions spent.

The council will meet again in two weeks on Nov. 30 for another work session at 5:30 p.m. in the Harrisonburg Council Chambers.

For more information on the Nov. 16 meeting and agenda, click here.

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