FORT WAYNE, Ind. (WANE) — Allen County County Council approved $5 million in ARPA funds Thursday at its regular monthly meeting.
County Councilman Tom Harris explained that now that the council has allocated the money, the County will take requests from communities and determine how the money will be spent.
The money could go to three infrastructure projects in Woodburn, New Haven and the Maysville Regional Water and Sewer District that currently gets its water from Grabill. The town of Grabill is decommissioning its water treatment facility and this $2.5 million project would help equalize water and sewer rates that could skyrocket to $200 a month if the help is not given, according to county information.
Eventually, the county will access $74 million from the American Rescue Plan Act. The city was granted $51 million. The federal funds are intended to address projects and lives impacted by the pandemic.
The county’s chief of staff, Chris Cloud, explained to the council that there are four primary buckets individuals and businesses may apply for these rescue funds. They include infrastructure, pandemic pay, revenue replacement and COVID-related impacts, Cloud said.
Woodburn’s mayor Joseph Kelsey spoke on behalf of his town project and is asking for $375,000 to replace the Woodlan Lift Station that serves Woodlan High School, Woodburn customers who are in an unincorporated part of Allen County and others serviced by the Allen County Regional Water and Sewer District, Kelsey said.
The lift station needs replacement and not big enough to service the existing customers and cannot accommodate future growth. Kelsey said there were two housing developments under construction now and he anticipated future growth with a lot of land that could be developed.
“There’s a potential for a lot of growth that would add to the Woodburn schools and two housing developments going up,” Kelsey said.
Woodburn applied for a state grant and was denied. Kelsey said the state favored communities where the sewer rates were higher than $100 a month.
A similar project in New Haven estimated to cost $2 million will benefit the northeast side of New Haven and industrial growth, county information said. Delivering water and sewer services is the priority in the project that includes installing a water main and booster station that will increase water pressure and capacity at the water tower.
The town of New Haven does not have the funds to complete the project on its own, information states.
Eddie Ribel, food truck operator of Street Chef, said he and other food operators took a hit during the pandemic. He’s been attending city and county council meetings to see how small business operators like himself can retrieve losses incurred during that time. Ribel estimates his revenues were reduced between $10,000 and $15,000 during that time.
“I want to figure out where Street Chef and other food trucks fit in with this ARPA money,” Ribel said Thursday. “I was hurt during this pandemic, about $10-15,000 dollars worth of sales. I’m here with their voice to possibly figure out where we fit in, where we can qualify for that money, how do we get about getting that money and the grants and all that.”
County Councilwoman Sheila Curry Campbell supported the projects in a nearly unanimous vote by the council, but says her concern is that ARPA funds “are being used (in) equity and equally across the country.
“The Coronavirus Capital Projects Fund includes $10 billion that states can seek in order to invest in capital assets that enable work, education and health monitoring, including remote options and to address critical community needs made apparent by the COVID-19 public health emergency. This can include broadband infrastructure projects, digital connectivity technology projects and improvements to connectivity, device and digital literacy at ‘multi-purpose community facilities’,” Curry Campbell said in a statement to WANE.
Cloud said more information can be had by going on the Allen County website at www.allencounty.us/arpa.