Weigh in on use of ARPA Funds: Survey and Forum

Above: The Town is promoting the ARPA Committee’s call for public feedback on potential uses of $3M in federal funds, plus the annual survey on Town services. (image cropped from Town website)

Southborough’s ARPA Committee is seeking input from residents. In case you aren’t familiar, the Town formed a committee to recommend how to spend $3M in federal funds that Southborough is entitled to under the American Rescue Plan Act.

Yesterday, with help from the Municipal Technology Committee, the group launched a survey. The intent is to solicit feedback on requests they are considering for how to use the funds.

The MTC is also encouraging residents to complete a second survey available at the same link. (That’s their annual survey on how the Town can improve.) You can access both surveys at sboro.org.

The ARPA Committee also announced a public forum to be held next week:

The Southborough ARPA Committee invites residents to comment on how to spend $3+ million allotted to the town via the American Recovery Plan Act.

A public forum will be held via Zoom March 24, 2022 at 7:30 p.m. Join by visiting https://www.southboroughtown.com/remotemeetings.

Public comment is also welcomed at the end of weekly meetings every Thursday on Zoom. Suggestions may also be sent to Andrea Hamilton, chair, at ahamilton@southboroughma.org.

The Committee is seeking to gauge public sentiment on the use of funds before making recommendations to the Select Board this spring. Decisions may impact the budget or other items on the Warrant for the May 5th Annual Town Meeting.

More Details and Background

For the past couple of months, the Committee has sought input from Town Departments, Boards, and Committees on uses the money should be put to. As of March 3rd, the Committee had received over 30 concepts.

For the purpose of the survey, they narrowed that down to 16 to solicit feedback on. (Some of them were consolidations of multiple requests.)

The survey (open through April 4th) simply asks residents to rank their priorities for the following uses:

  • Bonus pay for town employees who performed essential work during the COVID-19 health emergency
  • Senior Center expansion
  • Provide needs-based economic relief
  • Grants in the areas of education, arts & culture, and environment
  • Improve municipal Wi-Fi, cybersecurity, and conference rooms
  • Property tax relief
  • ADA compliance upgrades to town facilities
  • Signs to mark the Southborough Center Historic District
  • Upgrades to the municipal tracking of septic plans
  • Youth and Family Services outreach
  • Purchase of 1.7 acre vacant National Grid parcel in downtown for future town use
  • Fund sidewalk work (repairs and new installations)
  • Lunblad soccer field renovations
  • Board of health enhancements to address ongoing needs from the pandemic
  • Electronic clickers to enable anonymous in-person voting at town meeting
  • Upgrade the town website (including consolidated event scheduling and registration)

It notes that not all need to be ranked, just the ones participants care about funding. The survey doesn’t include an open comment field. (Apparently, the Committee determined it would take to analyze that feedback.) Instead, the public can comment by participating in the weekly meetings, the public forum, or emailing.

I reached out to Chair Andrea Hamilton for clarity on why some requests/suggestions weren’t included in the survey. She explained that after long discussion, they decided to include only items the believed were “tangible” as realistic to be executed within the required spending timeframe.* However, their final report will incorporate all of the feedback they received.

As I’ve previously posted, the Select Board has already discussed allocating close to $160K in ARPA funds for budget and capital expenses in this year’s budgets. You can read more about their ARPA use discussions here. Tonight, the Board will revisit the topic during their meeting. That includes hearing more about the plans to expand the Senior Center and the potential use of ARPA funds towards the project.

To read more of my coverage of Town discussions about ARPA Funds, click here.

*ARPA funds must be “obligated” by December 31, 2024 and spent by December 31, 2026.

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n
10 months ago

Why should these funds be spent any differently than what is approved at ATM?

If it’s not a high enough priority to pay as part of that, why would it be a priority with a different source of funds?

Only exception IMHO should be fixing the roads that are nothing short of embarrassing – Parkerville, Boston Rd and Main Street intersection, Northboro road with the culvert that we have known would fail for 7+ years…

Bernard F Meyer
10 months ago

Expedite senior center expansion

c.buhsmer
9 months ago

suggested use of ARPA funds:
a) one time rebate to property tax payers

b) pave main street near Mauro’s Village Cafe

c) place speed bumps on Latisquama Rd.

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