Shrewsbury holds ARPA funding forum

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Shrewsbury holds ARPA funding forum
Police Chief Kevin Anderson discusses ARPA funding for public safety initiatives with School Committee Chair Lynsey Heffernan. (Photo/Caroline Gordon)

SHREWSBURY – From the Walnut Street sewer pump to public safety initiatives, residents got a first look at the proposed phase two American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) fund allocations.

The town has about $8 million to spend before Dec. 31, 2024.

According to Town Manager Kevin Mizikar, the Select Board will vote to allocate the funds during its next meeting on Dec. 20. 

What has already been spent

The town has received approximately $11.5 million in ARPA funds. The first half of the funding was released in the summer of 2021 and the second half was released last fall. 

Phase one of ARPA funds were spent on tax relief, water and sewer infrastructure, public health response to the pandemic and negative economic impacts of the pandemic. These efforts totaled $3,541,508. 

What is proposed

Various town departments and residents came together to attend a forum regarding phase two of the funds on Dec. 13 where Mizikar presented the six categories of funding, which he said align with the town’s strategic plan. 

According to Mizikar, this fall the Select Board requested that town departments submit project funding requests for phase two of the funds. 

Among those requests are upgrades to the sewer infrastructure and public safety initiatives.

The most expensive project is upgrades to the sewer infrastructure. It would allocate approximately $1.5 million to upgrade the Walnut Street Sewer Pump Station and the Walnut Street Sewer Main. 

According to Water and Sewer Superintendent Daniel Rowley, the pump station “sees quite a bit of flow” and has “struggled for many years.” 

In July 2021, there was a sanitary sewer overflow, which occurred because the capacity of the station was exceeded and “it couldn’t keep up with the flow,” Rowley said. 

Select Board member Michelle Conlin said that the project would relieve rate increases for residents who pay sewer bills. 

The town is also proposing to allocate $888,000 to fund various public safety initiatives. This includes digital speed signs, ASHER (Active Shooter Hostile Event Response) training, safety and security in school buildings, a self-contained breathing apparatus compressor, two drones, a lake patrol jet ski and funding for four new firefighters. 

Police Chief Kevin Anderson detailed the importance of the ASHER training, which would cost $100,000. It is a townwide active shooting training program that would assist police officers, firefighters and EMS workers to create a plan to join forces if they needed to respond to a shooting.

“These things are happening. So far we have had 1.7 mass shootings per day. You never want that to happen, but you want to be prepared,” Anderson said. 

The other requests include utility assistance/social safety net programs, projects to improve quality of life, an initiative to enhance engagement and communications and staff recruitment, development and performance. 

Residents weigh in

During the meeting, a few residents voiced their support to allocate funds for the utility assistance/social safety net and quality-of-life funding initiatives. 

Among the utility and social safety net programs, the town is proposing to spend $150,000 to partner with Shrewsbury Electric and Cable Operations (SELCO) to provide households and businesses with energy efficiency loans and grants. In total, this category calls for $425,000 in ARPA funds. 

Resident Gretchen Schultz-Ellison, who is part of the climate action organization Tipping Point 01545, said, “I’m really gratified that the town is going to be offering an energy efficiency upgrade program to residents.” 

However, Schultz-Ellison said that $425,000 total allocated toward utility assistance/social safety net programs is not enough because financial assistance has increased. 

In total, the town is interested in allocating $4.3 million in quality-of-life initiatives, including $2.3 million to improve parks. 

Resident Michael Pellini, who is the vice president of Shrewsbury Little League Girls Softball,  called the quality-of-life programs “the most important” out of the six funding categories.

“Making our recreation facilities better for our children should be a top priority of the town,” he said. 

If you have any questions, please feel free to reach out to the Office of the Select Board and Town Manager at [email protected] or at (508) 841- 8508. 

If you have any comments, please submit them to [email protected] no later than noon on Dec. 20. 

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