Kennebec County to Solicit Priorities to Spend Federal Relief Funds

AUGUSTA – With nearly $ 24 million in federal relief funds to spend over the next few years, Kennebec County officials will hold a public forum on Monday to hear from towns, villages and county nonprofits on their spending priorities for the American Rescue Plan Act. money.

Some communities already have ideas about where they would like to see some of the money go.

Augusta submitted a request for $ 1.8 million to pay for the roof replacement of the Augusta Civic Center.

Gardiner plans to seek funds for a new ambulance or for projects to improve the city’s outdoor space.

Others are still refining their requests.

“It’s not just a bucket of free money” Robert Devlin, Kennebec County Administrator Kennebec County Commissioners told their meeting last week.

In August, county officials unveiled their plan to distribute federal funds via a subsidy program. Applications, including those from county departments seeking funding, should be reviewed by the county budget committee, made up of city officials from across the county. Its recommendations, based on eligibility standards set by the US Treasury, will be forwarded to the commissioners for final decision.

How the money can be used is spelled out in the legislation that created the American Rescue Plan Act, Devlin said, and he recommended that city officials themselves consider how the money can be spent.

“It takes a little while,” he said. “It has to be related to COVID, the response to COVID or the economic impact of COVID. I have heard some very creative arguments.

Across Kennebec County, towns and villages are receiving a total of nearly $ 10 million allocated as part of the stimulus package, based on population. Augusta is expected to receive nearly $ 1.9 million and Waterville is expected to receive approximately $ 1.65 million, while Fayette’s share will be $ 120,000 and Vienna’s share will be approximately $ 60,000.

Keith Luke, Director of Economic Development for the City of Augusta, said he has reviewed the Federal Register, which contains both information about the program as well as the legislative intent behind the funding.

“There are a few things that were frustrating about it,” Luke said. “The categories to which this funding applies are very limited.

While there is room for creativity, applications should focus on resilience, water and sewerage projects, broadband and childcare, said Luke, and others. things that may be directly related to COVID-19 and emergency response. “

Augusta’s request for $ 1.785 million for the Civic Center roof replacement ticks several eligibility boxes.

“It was going to be part of our capital improvement program, and if we can get that funding that way, it will be a burden on the taxpayers of Augusta,” he said.

Augusta taxpayers have borne the entire cost of owning and operating the Civic Center, which is a regional asset, he said, and its roof must be replaced immediately.

No other rooftop in central Maine housed more COVID-19 vaccine recipients than the Civic Center, he said, noting that it served as a mass vaccination site earlier this year.

For Gardiner officials, at the top of the list is an additional ambulance.

“As you will recall, we had a budget season where we cut some things,” Acting City Manager Anne Davis told Gardiner City Council last week.

Davis said she did not want to duplicate the city’s plans for her own allocation of funds and believed that a request based on regional services would be more acceptable for the county to be funded.

“We have the option of asking them to buy us an ambulance,” she said.

The Gardiner Ambulance Service, made up of the Gardiner Fire Department, serves eight and a half communities in southern Kennebec County.

Alternatively, the city could also apply for funds to renovate McKay Park or the Cobbossee Trail, as they aim to keep people healthy and connected.

The funds are sent to counties, towns and villages in two installments. One has already been completed this year, and the second should arrive next year. Under the program, funds are to be committed by the end of 2024 and spent by the end of 2026.

The meeting will take place at 6 p.m. in the first-floor conference room of Hill House, the Kennebec County government building at 125 State Street.

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