To date, the Town of Middletown has more than 30 separate ideas submitted from residents for using the ARPA funding. To get in on the action, visit https://mdl.town/ARPAIdeas online. All input welcome. Deadline to submit ideas is Dec. 17.
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AMERICAN RESCUE PLAN ACT IDEAS COMING IN
MIDDLETOWN, R.I. (NOVEMBER 1, 2021) – The deadline to submit recommendations to use the Town’s American Rescue Plan Act money is weeks away, but the ideas are flowing in already.
During a meeting tonight in Town Hall, the Town Council heard several concepts to use the close to $4.8 million in federal money to help boost the economy and community in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Among the recommendations included one from the Planning Board to extend water service to the east side of Middletown. At the same time, the Town’s volunteer Beach Commission asked funding be used to repair the boat ramp at Third Beach and extend a floating dock in the area.
Through the Town’s online portal, more than 30 separate forms have been submitted to date, with more coming in daily. The deadline to submit input to the Town is Dec. 17, 2021. For more, visit https://mdl.town/ARPAIdeas online or fill out a form at Town Hall, 350 East Main Road.
“This is an important process, one of the most important processes we’ll undertake this year,” Town Administrator Shawn J. Brown said. “We want to hear from our residents and businesspeople so we get a wide array of concepts and make a true difference for the Town.”
President Joe Biden said earlier this year that federal dollars would be given to each community across the country to assist with COVID-19 recovery. A short time later, Middletown learned it was in line for about $4.75 million of that funding.
Despite what some contend, the ARPA funding is not providing “free money” to use anywhere on anything. Rather, there are a strict set of guidelines that spell out how the funding can be used. That includes work that benefits public health, reverses negative economic impacts, helps those disproportionally impacted by COVID-19, improves infrastructure and replaces lost revenues. For a full set of those guidelines, visit https://mdl.town/ARPARules online.
For a quick overview of the Town’s ongoing ARPA campaign, visit https://mdl.town/ARPAVideo online. According to the current schedule, there’s another public hearing for the council to get input from residents and others on what they think should happen with the ARPA funding. That hearing is now planned for Jan. 3, 2022 at 6:30 p.m. in Town Hall, 350 East Main Road.
Once all the ARPA recommendations are submitted by the Dec. 17 deadline, the council is expected to submit a list of priority projects to the Planning Board for review. From there, the Planning Board will be responsible for checking the compatibility of those recommendations with the Town’s comprehensive plan and sending its results back to the council on Feb. 7, 2022.
Then, it will be up to the council to set a final list of projects to be done in Middletown using ARPA funds. The deadline to obligate the ARPA funds is Dec. 31, 2024, with all the ARPA money needing to be spent by Dec. 31, 2026.
As part of the process, the federal government will be reviewing the Town’s use of the funding to make sure there’s a full accounting.
Resident John Bagwill, who’s a member of the Middletown Economic Development Advisory Committee, said the Town must be vigilant with the use of the money, which is going to add to the country’s debt for generations to come.
Referencing a recent piece in “Newport This Week” about student homelessness in Town, Bagwill suggested the council set aside $1 million to help those children specifically, many of whom are English Language Learners.
“This is a time to really give careful thought,” Bagwill said.
“It’s going to be interesting to see how this evolves and how we award the money,” council President Paul M. Rodrigues said.