NORTH READING — After much wrangling and debate, the Select Board finalized how the town will spend its one-time ARPA funds at its September 6 meeting.
The $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) is a “federal stimulus bill to aid public health and economic recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic,” according to the National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL). Signed into law by Pres. Biden in March of 2021, the funds are required to be obligated by Dec. 31, 2024 and spent by Dec. 31, 2026 and the U.S. Treasury’s final rule on potential uses of the funds requires them to be used for “capital expenditures; expanding public sector hiring and capacity; premium pay for essential works; and/or broadening eligible broadband, water and sewer infrastructures.”
President Joe Biden signed the $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA), the latest federal stimulus bill to aid public health and economic recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic, on March 11, 2021.
North Reading’s share of the stimulus funds totaled $4,742,157. Previously committed expenses totaled $1,554,948 for COVID test kits ($26,448), Arthur J. Kenney Turf Field ($28,500), Park Street Bridge ($1.4M), and funds toward the signalization project at the intersection of Haverhill and Chestnut Street ($100,000).
This left a balance of $3,187,209 to be spent.
The Select Board reached out to town departments and committees for suggested uses and received proposals totaling $13,746,400 so obviously had to pare back the list of requests.
The requests that passed muster of the Select Board were as follows:
- $ 1,640,209 for town center sewer connections to the NRHS wastewater system, which has excess capacity. This will enable the town to take the Police/Fire Station, Library, the Batchelder School, Third Meetinghouse and the Damon Tavern off individual septic systems.
- $785,000 for fire station design documents
- $500,000 for continued wastewater design and planning
- $262,000 for North and Central Street intersection design and construction improvements.
Town Administrator Michael Gilleberto explained that the $262,000 allotted for North and Central “was previously authorized by the voters at June Town Meeting through borrowing” but since this project qualifies for ARPA funds by not seeking the borrowing the town saves money or could potentially free up such funds for other expenses that would not qualify under ARPA. He emphasized that the town had not borrowed funds for this project. The total cost of that roadway improvement project where multiple accidents have occurred over the years is $395,000, with the balance of $133,000 funded “through previous bond proceeds.”
Information hearing on Oct. 2 Town Meeting warrant articles
Also on September 6, the Select Board finalized the warrant for the annual fall Town Meeting which is being held on Monday, Oct. 2 at 7 p.m. in the NRHS gymnasium, 189 Park St.
All residential addresses will receive a paper copy of the warrant in the mail either Friday or Saturday for their review. The Select Board is holding its public informational hearing on each warrant article next Monday, September 18 at 8 p.m. This is a hybrid meeting which means any member of the public may attend either in person in Room 14 at Town Hall, 235 North St. or via Zoom link (posted on the town website, northreadingma.gov on the calendar page).
The Select Board encourages residents to come ready to the meeting to ask any questions they may have about any of the warrant articles up for discussion in an effort to keep the electorate more informed of the issues that affect them.
Article 21 will be heard out of order so if residents are interested in discussing the street acceptance for Eaton Circle off Mt. Vernon St. they need to be aware that it will be the first article discussed, not the second to last, on Sept. 18.
It will be second to last at Oct. Town Meeting unless those voters present at Town Meeting vote to allow it to be heard out of order.
The Select Board also removed the wastewater warrant articles from the warrant; two versions were originally proposed. But it was determined that a stand-alone future Town Meeting would be when that discussion likely occurs. The board will be prepared to give the voters an update on the status of that project.
The warrant articles are as follows:
Article 21: Street Acceptance: Eaton Circle
Article 1: Hear and Act on Reports of Town Officers and Committees
Article 2: Prior Year Bills
Article 3: Appropriate Money to Stabilization Fund
Article 4: Appropriate Money to Capital Improvement Stabilization Fund
Article 5: Appropriate Money to Solid Waste Stabilization Fund
Article 6: Appropriate Money to Participating Funding Arrangement Fund
Article 7: Amend FY2024 Operating Budget
Article 8: Rescind Authorization to Borrow
Article 9: Amend FY2024 Capital Budget
Article 10: Appropriate Money for Legal Expenses – 20 Elm Street Litigation
Article 11: Appropriate Money for Fire Station Design Development and Construction Documents
Article 12: Appropriate Money for Bridge/Culvert Study
Article 13: Authorize Article 97 Home-Rule Petition for Chestnut Street Bridge
Article 14: Appropriate Money to Opioid Settlement Special Purpose Stabilization Fund
Article 15: Appropriate Money for Substance Abuse Treatment, Mitigation and Prevention
Article 16: Create and Transfer Funds into Secondary School Building Project Debt Service Special Purpose Stabilization Fund
Article 17: Appropriate Money to Cover Grant Deficits
Article 18: Authorize Hillview Commission to Enter into Golf Course Management Contract for Terms in Excess of Three Years
Article 19: Authorize Conveyance of Town-Owned Land for Affordable Housing (7 St. Theresa’s St)
Article 20: Amend Code of North Reading to Regulate Sustainable Food Ware and Packaging
Article 22: Authorize Home-Rule Petition Regarding Retired Police Officer.