It was heartening to see so many representatives of local townships and cities attend a county-hosted meeting August 16 on American Recovery Plan (ARP) funds, and share ideas on priority needs. The meeting was designed to start conversations about projects or brainstorm shared issues that might become a collaboration. In total Chisago County will see an infusion of $17 million— with county government being allocated $10 million alone.
County Board Chair Chris DuBose asked everyone to keep an open mind and listen.
County Administrator Chase Burnham said unlike the CARES (covid-19 relief) funding, which was a “shotgun start” these recovery funds will be in play to 2024. The money has complex conditions attached and part of the reason in calling the meeting was to have a finance consultant provide guidance. The towns and cities were invited to e mail any unanswered questions after the meeting to Burnham and he would get responses back to them. (And, no the ARP funds, which do go towards emergency workers can’t go towards ARMER radio expenses. This is because the system was in place well before covid.)
Timeline The first half of funds could start to be requested at the end of July. The second batch goes out July 2022.
The monies have to go be applied to expenses from after March 3, 2021 and have to go to expenses that are obligated by Dec. 31, 2024. Funds have to be gone by Dec 31, 2026.
All the cities except North Branch sent someone to last week’s meeting at the Government Center, and all county townships except Shafer Township were represented. Even elected officials and city clerks from places who haven’t yet taken a hard look at funding, participated.
Some common themes came out of the meeting— there are areas where enhanced Internet is still needed and infrastructure like wells and pipes, obsolete meters were at the top of some lists. Various fire departments have requested to use ARP monies for equipment and firefighter safety.
Some allocations have been reviewed, examples: Lent would like to get some money to cover lost revenue when the town hall wasn’t being rented. Sunrise and Franconia could use new township halls and Sunrise would like to work with an Internet provider for improving service in the non-CenturyLink areas.
Nessel could use a sand salt shed but whether it qualifies is another question.
Governing units are going to be putting together plans for the funding soon. If you have local issues that can be tied to public health, supporting non-profits, business or employees, addressing negative economic impacts from the virus or similar expenses let your elected officials know.
Burnham said county broadband service is under analysis and there is a report due soon on existing fiber-to-home options and feasibility of closing Internet coverage gaps.