REGION – As the region’s communities allocated nearly $50 million in federal COVID-19 grants, Northborough stands out as the only town with most of its funding left unspent, according to an analysis by the Community Advocate.
Under the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021 (ARPA), Massachusetts and cities and towns received aid to deal with public health and economic impacts of the pandemic. Communities must obligate the funds by Dec. 31 of next year, and spend them by Dec. 31, 2026.
The Select Boards, town leaders and the Marlborough City Council have allocated nearly all of the funds for a variety of capital improvements and other projects.
Select Board Chair Mitch Cohen confirmed that of the $4.5 million in ARPA funds, $2.4 million remains to be spent. Northborough recently hired a new town administrator, and there’s still time to allocate the funds.
“Rather than spend it as quickly as possible, we’re trying to spent it as wisely as possible,” he said. “Much of the remaining funds will be used to revitalize the downtown.”
In Northborough, $1.7 million will be used to replace the Fannie E. Proctor Elementary School’s 40,000-square-foot roof. Be Well Northborough, a health and wellness initiative led by town staff, received $100,000; and $47,000 is reserved for a municipal building study.
Westborough, Grafton, Hudson, Southborough, Marlborough, and Shrewsbury earmarked $12.8 million for water and sewer projects and $8.6 million to replace school roofs and update HVAC systems.
At about $3 million, the biggest ticket item in the region is renovations to the Westborough schools, including a new roof at the Armstrong Elementary School and HVAC improvements at Westborough High School.
Marlborough netted the most ARPA funds among the seven communities at $11.7 million and has allotted the full amount to 19 projects. There’s $2 million for the Lake Williams Walking Trail; $1.7 million for a pump station; $1.6 million for a treatment plan that is being designed; and a new fire engine for $1.5 million.
The plan also includes a $1.5 million in improvements to City Hall and Main Street; $1.5 million in upgrades to the Sligo Water Tank; and $1 million for water main replacement on Turner Ridge and Stone Hill roads.
The town of Shrewsbury received $11.5 million, the second largest funding level in the region. All but $226,363 has been allocated.
The projects include $1.5 million for upgrades to the Walnut Street Pump Station and sewer main; another $1.5 million for land acquisition; improvements to Lake Street Park including the addition of pickleball courts for a total of $800,000; At $750,000 parking improvements to Maple Avenue Field; and $1.4 million to replace the water main at Holden and Clinton streets.
The biggest beneficiary of ARPA funds in Westborough is the schools. Of the $5.6 million provided, $1.3 million will be spent for a new roof at the Armstrong Elementary School and $1.6 million to replace the HVAC rooftop chillers atop Westborough High School which generate cold water to provide air conditioning.
In addition, the town has reserved $930,428 for water and sewer infrastructure improvements by building or upgrading existing facilities. Another $677,299 will be used to hire police officers and firefighters.
There’s less than $70,000 remaining to be allocated.
In Grafton, which received nearly $5.6 million in ARPA funds, the cash has been allocated for more than a dozen projects over the next two years.
In addition to the $2.5 million to replace the 57-year-old HVAC system at Grafton Middle School, there’s $750,000 to install sidewalks near the North Street Elementary School; a water project with the town and the Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine at Tufts University is expected to cost $500,000; and the town’s municipal parking lot on Providence Road is set to receive $475,000 in improvements.
“The money has been great for us to be able to knock out some of our capital planning needs without having to borrow,” said Grafton Town Administrator Evan Brassard.
In Hudson, officials conducted three public hearings on how the $5.9 million in ARPA funding should be spent. Residents advocated for public health and safety, and green energy initiatives.
At $1.4 million, the most expensive item is the culvert replacement at Main and Houghton streets; a close second is Phase II of upgrades to the town’s wastewater treatment with a price tag of $1 million.
Another $645,000 will be spent to update the HVAC systems at the Joseph L. Mulready and Forest Avenue elementary schools. The library is slated to receive $308,158 for technology improvements.
The town of Southborough was the beneficiary of $3 million in funds and nearly all but $43,000 remain.
Residents can see the fruits an allotment of $400,000 as construction is underway to expand the Senior Center on Cordaville Road, Route 85. Another $704,000 will fund a sidewalk study; $200,000 has been allocated for a Department of Public Works truck; and $150,000 has been targeted to update the school’s HVAC systems.
Another $144,547 will be spent to help complete the Peninsula Trail to help close a gap in the 33-mile regional Boroughs Loop Trail that connects trails in Marlborough, Northborough, Westborough and Southborough.
“The majority of the funds have been used to offset capital and one-time projects, rather than operational expenses, thus preventing a revenue deficit in future years when the ARPA funds are exhausted,” said Mark Purple, Southborough’s Town Administrator, in an email.