Study session held to discuss ARPA funds
By Kevin Elliott
Bloomfield Township Board of Trustee members met for a special study session on Thursday, December 15, to discuss how to use $4.4 million in federal funds granted to the township through the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) to offset losses from the pandemic.
The township will receive a one-time $4.4 million disbursement, which must be used by the end of 2024, in accordance with federal guidelines, said township supervisor Dani Walsh.
The money can’t be used for debt service or pension liability.
“Initially, the money came with extreme limitations and was restricted to federal initiatives to expand broadband, and water and sewer to underserved communities,” she said.
Walsh said the township joined with other communities to lobby federal officials for more leniency. While a time limit remains on the use of the funds, the money can be used in one of four categories: replacing lost public sector revenue; supporting COVID-19 public health and economic responses; providing premium pay for eligible workers performing essential work; and investing in water, sewer and broadband.
In September, the board identified nearly $42 million in eligible projects the ARPA funds could be used for during the grant period. In November, trustees approved a preliminary budget for the upcoming fiscal year, which included some in ARPA-eligible purchases, including desktop scanners; a ladder truck for the fire department; public safety equipment; phone upgrades; holding cell updates; police dispatch updates; police locker room upgrades, and other items. However, no final decision has been made on what exactly the funds will be used to offset.
Walsh said some items eligible items were removed from consideration, such as funding a strategic plan for the township, which she said would take longer than the eligible time requirement. Likewise, she said funding for the senior center is being sought through another grant. However, she said the township could use ARPA funds to complete architectural plans for projects to prepare them to be “shovel ready,” and qualify for other grant funding.
“Some of the grants that are out there, we could have applied for some of the police issues or fire had it been shovel ready, meaning you already have the architectural plans and own the property,” she said. “There are places like Livonia, which got a senior center that way because it was shovel ready. So, we could decide if we want to have an architect do a design. That is something we could start on.
“We have time to investigate these and do it right, but the question is, ‘what do we investigate?’” Walsh said.
“We aren’t making any decisions here tonight,” said clerk Martin Brook. “We are talking about it and ultimately come back in a board meeting and there would be a resolution with sufficient detail to allow us to make a decision. Some of this does have a lot more legwork to do.”
Proposed projects range from multi-million dollar projects, such as the renovation of Fire Station 3 and water and sewer upgrades. Other items include capital needs, such as scanners, police and fire equipment; cyber security upgrades; and information technology upgrades. Walsh said funding the police dispatch and locker room upgrades, a new ladder apparatus for the fire department and phone system upgrades would cost about $3.2 million, leaving another $1.2 million for smaller projects.
Board members said they considered updating the township’s police dispatch and public safety facilities a priority. Trustee Michael Schostak also said cyber security upgrades are necessary to avoid problems in the future.
“I would move up in my priority list the dispatch renovation and locker room,” said Schostak. “We have seen how important dispatch is to our overall operations and we need to give them the best facility.”
Walsh said the session gives staff some guidance on what priorities the board will want to take, and what avenues to explore. No formal action was taken at the study session. A formal budget meeting will be scheduled in February.