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Walsh updates on possible ARPA projects

By Dana Casadei


Bloomfield Township Supervisor Dani Walsh updated he board of trustees meeting on Monday, August 28, with details about what the township is proposing to do with the nearly $4.5 million it was awarded through the American Rescue Plan Act.


In total, the township was awarded $4,407,946, with $1,783,487 already allocated for platform ladder apparatus for the fire department. The platform ladder project will take three years to make, and will arrive in 2026. 


Currently, the township is looking to use the remaining $2,624,459 for multiple projects, ranging from building development to technology and security updates.


Walsh said that request for proposals (RFP) will be going out sporadically, taking away the need to wait for everything and do them all at once. 


RFPs have already been sent out for some projects, including a new fire station and reimagining of the police station. That RFP went out in June and received six responses. Both the police and fire chiefs have interviewed the prospective candidates and will be coming before the board with their recommendation soon. 


The combined cost for both the fire and police station is approximately $90,000, coming in on the lower side for the proposed projects.


A RFP has also been sent out for a records management structure project, being led by township clerk Martin Brook, who received three responses and is expected to give his recommendation and request for approval by the board of trustees in September. 


This particular project would include creating a framework for how and where almost 200 years of documents, both paper and digital in various storage areas, could be combined and made easily accessible in one place, improving speed and accuracy of responding to Freedom of Information Act requests.


Estimated cost for this project is $400,000 and does not include its second stage, which would entail scanning and storing documents.


Other projects with building modifications include updates to the township hall auditorium, both technology updates and general updates like replacing the lights, wall color and the chairs, totaling $250,000.


“We do get a lot of comments about the chairs,” Walsh laughed. “I’m sure you sitting out there right now may notice they aren’t the most comfortable if you’re sitting through a long meeting.”


Many of the other potential projects revolved around technology updates, such as a proposed phone system replacement for both the hosted and on-premise solution; disaster recovery and continuity, which among other aspects, would include cloud server access, virtual servers, and iPad software for assessing to work in the field after storms. Paper and pen is currently being utilized.  


There was also discussion about security updates for cyber security for those who work for the township by doing things like investing in multi-factor authentication for all 225 users. This project would also include updated security to the campus to improve surveillance cameras, building security access and locks, and auto/video in the police interview room. The police department still use key locks for the prison cells. 


While some updates were short, the township drainage study/chapter 20 discussion took up a large portion of Walsh’s presentation.


This project originally started with the concept of chapter 20 drains. One had come before the board of trustees that would help two homes, but would have taken up most of the drainage funding. They also knew of five other homes who were having issues so the township moved forward with a study, one that has caused the project to grow considerably from where it originally started. 


“That study has grown into the fact that it is going to need some different phases and some structure,” Walsh said.


The project is now broken down into three possible stages. First, the study would attempt to identify the ownership of existing storm drain systems located within the township, including both county owned drains in the right of way, and privately owned drains within the subdivisions. Then owners would be educated of their drainage systems and advised on the best management practice for maintaining their systems. The third, and final, phase would include investigating if there are any drainage areas that potentially meet the chapter 20 drain criteria and if they could become a chapter 20 drain.


Walsh made the remark that there are a lot of residents and homeowner associations which don’t realize they own and are responsible for their drainage system, often calling the township when their subdivision is flooding, expecting the township to fix it, then being informed it’s actually their responsibility to do so. 


“I don’t feel people would avoid maintaining if they knew it,” Walsh said. “I honestly think most people just assume the township owns it.”


It is looking like a project this large would take them outside the scope of 2026 and the project's duration and cost will likely exceed ARPA parameters. It will also take more engineers than those the township has in house, with the township's engineer, HRC, spearheading the project due to its massive size. 


After she was finished, Walsh asked what her fellow trustees thought of the plan, or whether they should focus on those five homes first instead.


Those who spoke all agreed that they should focus on more of a holistic approach to the project, focusing on the overall needs of the community instead of just five homes.


“We’d hate to have problems down the road because we really weren’t stewards of taking care of this,” said trustee Neal Barnett. 


“This is an opportunity to educate folks about what impact they might experience and let them know what they can do sooner rather than later,” Brook said, one of many board members who agreed that this would be an excellent educational opportunity for everyone.


While a large portion of the ARPA funds have been assigned, there is still approximately $1.4 million that is unassigned, with possible projects for the remaining balance being the unknown cost of both the first phrase of the storm drain system and second phase of record management structure. There’s also a backlog of vehicles and equipment to be purchased, as well as other capital costs, where ARPA funds could be used towards if no new projects are added.

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