By Dan Miller, Contributing Writer
WESTBOROUGH – Westborough can get up to $5.7 million thanks to the federal American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA), consultants told the Select Board late last month.
The town already has received requests for money totaling roughly twice that amount, board member Patrick Welch noted during a Dec. 21 meeting.
The town has until Dec. 31, 2024, to commit the ARPA funds. All the funds must then be disbursed by Dec. 31, 2026, according to Chris Roger, who works for the consulting firm Clifton Larson Allen.
Town hires consultant on 4-year contract
The board voted 4-0 to hire Clifton Larson to a four-year contract to help Westborough comply with what Rogers described as the “robust” reporting requirements of the U.S. Treasury Department. The firm will also help ensure that all projects the town chooses to receive ARPA funds are actually eligible for the money.
The $132,540 contract will be paid for out of the $5.7 million Westborough is set to receive in ARPA funds, Town Manager Kristi Williams told the board.
“It’s a wise investment,” board member Ian Johnson said.
If the town made a mistake, such as committing ARPA funds to something later found to be ineligible, “it could cost us a whole lot more than $132,000 to pay that money back,” Johnson added.
A nationwide firm based in Minneapolis, Clifton Larson Allen (CLA) was the only company responding to a request for quotes Westborough put out through the state.
According to the presentation from Rogers, the company has $1.1 billion in revenue, over 7,400 employees and serves more than 4,150 governmental entities, including about 100 in Massachusetts.
Select Board member Sean Keogh said CLA was the only firm to respond likely because they “kind of dominate competition in the state of Massachusetts.”
Consultant to work with town through ARPA process
Williams said the town will prioritize and decide which projects should get ARPA funds. It is then CLA’s job to make sure the projects the town chooses are eligible to receive the money.
Previous federal rescue plans, like the Coronavirus Relief Act (CARES), sent money to states. With ARPA, the funds are going to local governments.
That’s “a heavy lift,” board member Shelby Marshall said, referring to meeting the Treasury reporting requirements.
“It makes all the sense in the world to work with folks who understand it,” she added.
Another difference between ARPA and the previous coronavirus rescue package is that, under ARPA, municipalities like Westborough are eligible for revenue replacement funds, said Shawn McGoldrick, one of three CLA consultants – along with Rogers – assigned to Westborough.
A calculation determines if the town sustained a revenue loss during a specific period of time. CLA will be tasked with verifying if Westborough did have a revenue loss.
If so, these funds could be replaced to the town through ARPA, and the town can use the money for general government services.
“You have broad latitude on that spending,” Rogers said.
ARPA money flows into local communities
Discussions like this continue to play out as local governments navigate and plan uses for their ARPA allocations.
Likewise, these discussions follow the state’s passage of an ARPA spending bill last month, which distributed ARPA and state surplus funds to municipalities through broader allocations as well as direct earmarks.