Marlborough City Council approves mayor’s allocation of ARPA funding

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Marlborough Mayor concerned with Phase two of vaccine rollout.MARLBOROUGH – Marlborough’s ARPA allocation process is moving forward following a vote by the City Council last month to approve a new version of Mayor Arthur Vigeant’s plan for Coronavirus Local Fiscal Recovery Fund (CLRF) money. 

Representing some dollars sent to the city under the federal American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA), this money has been the subject of debate between the mayor at the City Council, which gave Vigeant broader authority to allocate funds last year before then rescinding its approval in April.

The new vote on May 23 was 8-2 in favor of approval, advancing the roughly $11.7 million in funding.

Individual allocations are as follows:

  • $1,543,500 – Fire ladder
  • $33,000 – City vehicle
  • $1,500,000 – City Hall/Main Street
  • $1,750,000 – Pump station
  • $125,000 – Parking garage/design
  • $1,600,000 – Treatment plant
  • $1,500,000 – Sligo water tank
  • $1,000,000 – Water main replacement
  • $2,000,000 – Lake Williams walking trail
  • $150,000 – Dog park
  • $500,000 – Deck hockey

Vigeant provides new plan after City Council vote 

The City Council had rescinded its previous approval from December of last year after federal guidelines about proper applications for the funds changed. 

Councilors noted concerns about how Vigeant’s allocations, following that rule change, differed from initial plans to use the majority of the money on water and sewer projects.

Vigeant responded in a statement, saying, in part, that he was “disappointed to say the least” by the Council’s actions.

Councilor John Irish explained on May 23 that he subsequently met with the mayor to discuss counselors’ concerns. 

“I believe when we met, he decided to resubmit the funds, and I believe it is a nice way to spend these funds,” Irish said.

In an interview following this May 23 meeting, City Council President Michael Ossing said that the decision to rescind had been based on an allocation plan that Vigeant delivered in March, in which he sought to bond some of the city’s water and sewer projects.

Ossing said that the Council believed it would be better to use ARPA money for these projects rather than take out loans requiring hundreds of thousands of dollars in interest charges.

“The Mayor acknowledged that, came back and the two bonds that he asked for are no longer in play,” Ossing said. “They’re now being paid for out of the ARPA funds.”

Perlman proposes amendment 

Outside of what was eventually green lit, Councilor Samantha Perlman did on May 23 propose an amendment that failed by a 8-2 vote. 

The amendment would have approved around $7 million of the CLRF funding for water and sewer projects, while continuing discussion around the remaining $4 million.

Perlman said that the water and sewer projects need to move forward quickly. She continued, though, that the City Council should have further discussion on where the rest of the money goes.

She said that some of the planned allocations, such as those toward City Hall and a city vehicle, were not well placed in ARPA funds.

“The ARPA funds, as a whole, were also designed to help support underserved communities who might be most impacted and small businesses, and I think it would be important to address that in committee to see what some of those uses could be,” Perlman said. 

Irish said that the Council had already met with Vigeant on a number of items in the funding, like funding for a dog park, Marlborough’s Lake Williams Trail and deck hockey facilities.

Councilor Laura Wagner specifically supported passing the ARPA funding without additional meetings, saying she was concerned about the amount of time the process could take and the possibility of things “getting lost in the shuffle.”

“These are all things that will benefit the entire community,” Wagner said of the current planned uses for this money. 

Councilor David Doucette also supported passing the ARPA funding on May 23, saying that it was not necessary to pass a fine-tooth comb through the entire proposal.

As Doucette and Wagner shared those thoughts, Councilor Mark Oram called for further discussion on the funding, saying that the amount money going to recreational projects in Vigeant’s proposal fell outside the scope of ARPA. 

“The projects are good and I would support them, but not with ARPA funding,” Oram said.

Ossing noted the same rule changes that factored into earlier debate, emphasizing that changes did provide significantly more flexibility on how municipalities spend the first $10 million of the funding.

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