Shenandoah, Oak Ridge North discuss possible uses of $1.5M in federal relief

Shenandoah and Oak Ridge North are discussing how use federal funds from the American Rescue Plan Act. (Andrew Christman/Community Impact Newspaper)
Shenandoah and Oak Ridge North are discussing how use federal funds from the American Rescue Plan Act. (Andrew Christman/Community Impact Newspaper)

Shenandoah and Oak Ridge North are discussing how use federal funds from the American Rescue Plan Act. (Andrew Christman/Community Impact Newspaper)

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Shenandoah and Oak Ridge North have begun receiving funds from the American Rescue Plan Act. (Community Impact Newspaper)
The cities of Shenandoah and Oak Ridge North have started discussions on how to use the funds each was allotted through the federal American Rescue Plan Act, although some officials and staff have expressed confusion as to how the funds can be used.

The U.S. Department of the Treasury stated the total $350 billion in ARPA funding is aimed at job growth and pandemic recovery.

The funding was available to cities, but not to The Woodlands Township, according to township officials, who have speculated based on Treasury guidelines a city of that size could have received $30 million.

Shenandoah

During an Oct. 13 meeting, Shenandoah Finance Director Lisa Wasner presented an option to use the funds to improve water meters throughout the city for more accurate readings.


The proposed project received some pushback from both Council Member Ted Fletcher and Mayor Ritch Wheeler, who each asked if there were better ways to use the federal funding to help residents and extraterritorial jurisdictions through infrastructure projects.

Wasner said the city has time to submit the projects it plans to fund as the deadline for cities with populations under 50,000 received their first round of funding Aug. 23.

Projects will need to be logged with the state by April. All projects must be committed by December 2024, and all funds will need to be spent by the end of 2026.

“Some projects are expected to last years, especially bigger cities that got a lot of money,” Wasner said. “[Shenandoah] is not planning on waiting until 2026 to spend those funds, [as] we did not get as much.”

While guidelines for how the funding can be used are in place, Wasner said an issue is how broad they are and whether cities could face issues with the Internal Revenue Service.

According to U.S. Treasury guidelines, the funds can be used to support public health expenditures such as coronavirus mitigation efforts; investments in water, sewer and broadband infrastructure; providing premium pay for essential workers; and addressing negative economic effects caused by the pandemic.

Shenandoah received funding from both the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act and the ARPA. Wasner said the CARES Act funding was geared toward public health expenses incurred from battling the coronavirus, while the ARPA funds focus more on improvements needed in its aftermath.

Wasner said according to the language of the bill, the city will not have to pay back the funding.

“[Guidelines for] water, sewer and broadband are very open ended,” Wasner said.

Wasner said as of Oct. 26 city staff had not made any additional recommendations for projects.

“Anything can come up,” Wasner said. “Anything that does come up will be discussed in open meetings.”

Oak Ridge North

Heather Neeley, city manager for Oak Ridge North, said Oct. 25 the city had already received the first half of its ARPA funds.

According to city documents, it received $391,626 in the first installment of ARPA funds in September. Neeley said the city expects receive about $783,252 total in ARPA funds. The second round of funding will be provided in roughly six months, according to Neeley.

“The list of projects is pretty specific,” Neeley said during the meeting. “Some aspects that we’re looking at is whether or not we can use it for any of the buildings.”

Neeley said the city is looking to use all of its available funding before it expires in 2024.

Ally Bolender and Vanessa Holt contributed to this report.
By Andrew Christman
Andrew joined Community Impact Newspaper in early 2019 after moving from Indiana. He is a 2015 graduate from Indiana State University, where he received degrees in English and journalism. He has written for a number of small town publications throughout his career as a reporter.


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