Marlborough mayor, City Council urge legislature to appropriate remaining ARPA funds

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Marlborough mayor, City Council urge legislature to appropriate remaining ARPA funds
Marlborough City Hall towers over downtown Marlborough. (Photo/Dakota Antelman)

MARLBOROUGH – Marlborough Mayor Arthur Vigeant last month urged the Massachusetts state legislature to appropriate $2.3 billion in remaining American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funding in a letter to the Marlborough City Council.

Vigeant’s letter was read into the public record during a council meeting on June 27 and the council voted to sign onto it. Each councilor signed the letter except for Kathleen Robey, who was not present.

“The delay in funding local communities will further hamper projects that are already dealing with supply chain distribution issues, staffing and contractor shortages and inflation,” Vigeant wrote in his letter.

Mayor details reasons for request

Massachusetts received $8.7 billion in total ARPA funding when the federal coronavirus relief package passed last year.

Just under $3.5 billion went to individual cities and towns as local allocations. Roughly $5.3 billion, meanwhile, remained in state hands, with a portion being allocated for individual projects in December of last year.

The remaining $2.3 billion was then initially included in a proposed economic development bill that Gov. Charlie Baker filed in April. The bill also included $1.2 billion in state bond authorizations.

Last month, though, the legislature’s Economic Development Committee advanced a version of the bill that removed the $2.3 billion in ARPA funding.

In a conversation with the Community Advocate, Vigeant reiterated that there will not be specific appropriations for Marlborough in the $2.3 billion. Rather, the money will be doled out to fund individual projects around the state.

Vigeant cited multiple reasons that the $2.3 billion should be allocated before the current legislative session ends on July 31.

If Republicans gain control of Congress in November, he said, there is concern the legislators will take back still unallocated money.

Vigeant said a transition from the outgoing Baker administration to a new Massachusetts governor in November could further delay the allocation of ARPA funding.

Communities face ARPA frustrations

Now raised in Marlborough, some elements of these concerns mirror issues that other local leaders have already noted in recent weeks.

Westborough Town Manager Kristi Williams urged quick action in her community earlier this year when presenting a list of possible ARPA projects to Select Board members.

She cited the threat of congressional clawbacks for unallocated money at that time.

More recently, Shrewsbury Town Manager Kevin Mizikar voiced concerns.

He acknowledged conversations at the federal level about the percentage of ARPA funds that are still unspent.

He then noted that the town hadn’t received a second round of funds associated with its municipal ARPA allocation, however.

“They haven’t even given us all the money yet,” Mizikar said.

‘The sooner we get the money… the better it is’

During the council’s meeting last month, City Council President Michael Ossing said that the state’s different municipalities will be competing over the same contractors for ARPA-funded projects at the same time, potentially delaying progress further.

Time, therefore, is of the essence in getting potential projects funded, he said.

“The sooner we get the money in the state’s hands to do something with it, the better it is,” Ossing said.

Legislators respond

Contacted after the City Council’s meeting, Molly Trowbridge, the acting chief of staff and communications director for Joint Economic Development Committee Senate Chair Eric Lesser, referred the Community Advocate to an article published by the State House News Service.

In the article, Lesser is quoted saying that all senators on the committee reserved their rights and neither supported nor opposed advancing the governor’s economic development bill out of committee without ARPA funding.

“We were not prepared to fully strip ARPA but did not want to delay things any longer,” Lesser said. “There will be many more versions of the legislation to work with moving forward.”

House Committee Chair Jerald Parisella was unavailable for comment as of publication.

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