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Harrisonburg City Council continues ARPA spending discussion

Published: Nov. 30, 2021 at 11:19 PM EST
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HARRISONBURG, Va. (WHSV) - In total, nearly $24 million is going to the Friendly City thanks to American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) federal funding. Harrisonburg City Council sat down for its second work session Tuesday evening to discuss the priorities of the board.

The City Council will have the final say in where and who the money goes to. At the first work session related to ARPA spending on Nov. 16, city staff did share 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.

City staff listened to recommendations from the council two weeks ago and brought three options for spending to Tuesday evening’s work session. Option 1, Option 2, and Option 3 are similar, with a few changes on major projects, like the construction of a new fire station 5 and the construction of a new Public Works Administration Building.

No votes were made on Tuesday by the council.

The council continued to discuss its individual priorities, but all five council members were interested in a few projects, like the construction of a facility to serve as a homeless shelter, addressing childcare costs and needs in the community, and investing in the Northeast neighborhood, which is a top priority for Mayor Deanna Reed.

At the Nov. 16 work sessions, 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.

City council reaffirmed its interest in hearing from the community on Tuesday.

“There is going to be a lot of value in having the community involved from the get-go. I feel that if we move forward in spending or allocating half of the money at one time then I just don’t think that’s the way I would want to go,” Vice-Mayor Sal Romero said.

Councilmember Chris Jones explained that the next steps for the council will be an information stage by gathering community input and more in-depth information about how the funding could be used for some of the council’s top priorities, as well as recommendations from city staff.

The ARPA funding 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.

According to a presentation from Harrisonburg City Manager Eric Campbell, the funding has five permitted uses: Supporting public health expenditures, addressing negative economic impacts caused by the pandemic, replacing lost public sector revenue, providing premium pay for essential workers, and investing in sewer, water, and broadband infrastructure.

Sectors recognized as essential are health care, public health and safety, childcare, education, sanitation, transportation, and food production and services.

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

For more information on the Nov. 30 meeting and agenda, click here.

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