Greenfield mayor seeks input on using American Rescue Plan Act funds

  • Greenfield Mayor Roxann Wedegartner at City Hall. STAFF FILE PHOTO/PAUL FRANZ

Staff Writer
Published: 8/29/2021 4:40:08 PM

GREENFIELD — Community members are eager to weigh in on the potential uses for the $5.1 million that will be allotted to the city through the American Rescue Plan Act.

“It’s a slight windfall for the town,” said resident Susan Worgaftik. “Since it’s unusual for us to be able to have this opportunity, it also is something we should have a voice in … what we think the priorities should be.”

American Rescue Plan Act, which was signed into law in March, provides $1.9 trillion for continued COVID-19 response and recovery, including $350 billion for the Coronavirus State and Local Fiscal Recovery Funds, according to mass.gov.

The city has received one installment of its two payments, according to Mayor Roxann Wedegartner. The city won’t receive another payment until spring 2022.

“The amount we have in-house right now is, $2,579,267.02,” Wedegartner told City Council this month. “That is what we will have available to us.”

Ultimately, how the money is spent is at the discretion of the mayor.

Wedegartner said she and other public officials plan to schedule a public information session in mid-September.

“I’m looking forward to putting together a public information session and hearing from the public some of their ideas,” she said to councilors. “I will preface that by saying there are certain restrictions — there are many restrictions – on how we may spend that money in four categories.”

Those categories, per the state website, include: respond to the public health emergency with respect to COVID-19 or its negative economic impacts; provide premium pay to employees providing essential work during the COVID-19 public health emergency; provide government services to the extent of a government’s reduction in revenue due to COVID-19; and invest in sewer, water or broadband infrastructure.

“Clearly, you would think Greenfield would want to invest some of that money into water and sewer,” she said. “Our biggest expenses for water and sewer, and what we peck away at in our capital budget, is addressing issues that are… I/I (inflow and infiltration), and that is specifically excluded.”

Inflow and infiltration is excess water flow into sewer pipes from groundwater and stormwater.

“Each of the four (categories) has restrictions in it,” Wedegartner said. “It took awhile for (Finance Director) Liz Gilman and I to figure out what the restrictions were so we could even think about a viable list of projects we might want to do.”

Wedegartner said she would want to spend the money in a way that benefits the whole city as much as possible.

“For instance, completing the build-out of GCET would benefit a great number of people in Greenfield,” she said. “It’ll be very important to our economic development; it’ll be important to people’s ability to save money.”

Wedegartner said the public information session will be an opportunity for the city to explain in greater depth the restrictions and limitations on how the funds can be spent.

“I probably would open up that session for some kind of public comment or question, and I would certainly be willing to receive suggestions after that,” she said.

She noted residents have already started to email her suggestions for potential uses of the money.

Worgaftik said she hopes a “significant portion” can be used to address housing, both in terms of development and providing financial — rental or mortgage — assistance to those who still don’t have employment due to the pandemic.

Worgaftik said she thinks a public information session is a good start.

“I don’t see this as a multiple discussion event,” she said. “But I do see it as an opportunity for people to come and say what’s important. … The community has a lot of needs, and exactly how that is dealt with is important to all of us.”

Wedegartner is accepting suggestions at mayor@greenfield-ma.gov.

Mary Byrne can be reached at mbyrne@recorder.com or 413-930-4429. Twitter: @MaryEByrne




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