Rainwater, water and wastewater infrastructure improvements and broadband projects have been identified as the city’s priorities with the roughly $ 30 million it will receive from the US rescue plan.
The city will receive the money in two payments – $ 15 million it received about two weeks ago, and another payment of roughly the same amount in late June 2022. It has until December 31, 2024 to fully pay the money to bind a specific purpose. and must be completely used up by December 31, 2026.
It has identified $ 20.5 million projects to improve sewers, water supplies and drainage in Oakland, along with water and rainwater improvements in the Williamstown area and rainwater improvements in Pughsville, Pleasant Hill and South Suffolk.
The city is also proposing spending $ 8 million to improve the city’s broadband infrastructure – $ 5 million from a regional effort by the Southside Network Authority to build Phase I of the regional connectivity ring and $ 3 million for broadband expansion on the last mile in rural areas of the city.
“The $ 3 million component that we understand is eligible,” said Deputy Interim City Manager Kevin Hughes, “we would take the existing infrastructure and expand it to neighborhoods and parts of the city that are not currently (served ) become.”
The city is also proposing to spend $ 1.5 million to support nonprofits that have and continue to support residents negatively affected by COVID-19.
City Treasury Director Tealen Hansen and Hughes set out the parameters of how the city could spend its share of federal funds during a city council working session on July 7.
Hansen said the city could spend the money on five categories – in support of the public health response to COVID-19; Address the negative economic impact on workers, families, small businesses, affected industries, and public sector re-employment to address the loss of public sector revenue during the coronavirus pandemic; Bonus wages for key employees; and sewer, water and broadband infrastructure.
ARPA money may not be used as a non-state matching fund unless specifically authorized, general economic development and infrastructure projects, extraordinary contributions to pension funds, payments for debt service, legal settlements, deposits in Rainy Day funds and general economic development or human resource development activities, unless they deal directly with negative effects of the pandemic.
In Oakland, Hughes said the city will try to expand the sewer system and move residents away from private sewage treatment plants without impacting sewage charges. The water infrastructure project there is part of plans to complete an earlier Capital Improvement Program and Plan project by replacing an older 2-inch water pipe with a 6- and 8-inch water pipe to also improve the water supply for residents and firefighters without affecting the rate.
The rainwater improvements in Oakland would include an improved drainage system to reduce flooding.
City manager Al Moor said potential savings could be made if the work on the Oakland projects were combined by tearing open roads just once to get the job done.
In Williamstown, the city would replace an older 2-inch aqueduct with an 8-inch aqueduct to upgrade water and fire service and improve the drainage system there.
Hughes said in Pughsville that since it is served by an older trench drainage system, the city wants to accelerate an improved drainage system there and accelerate the work proposed with CIP money in fiscal years 2023 and 2024.
Like Pughsviille, the Lloyd Place and Rosemont neighborhoods along with those in Pleasant Hill and South Suffolk have an older ditch drainage system 10 years old. She wants to use the federal funds to accelerate the improvement.
“If we take an existing project that we have on the books and that takes up space in the CIP in our current funding that we are now replacing with federal funding, the next one is CIP,” said Hughes, “We are starting to develop new locations and improve service in other parts of the city. And so it really has the ability to add and create new projects.
“While getting that $ 30 million in the middle of the year is really exciting, it will allow us to have bigger legs, another $ 30 million or $ 20 million in other parts of the city. I think there is a great opportunity if we also look at the next CIP to introduce new locations for improvement. “
The $ 23.8 million fiber ring phase I cost of the regional broadband project would be shared equally among the agency’s five members – Suffolk, Chesapeake, Portsmouth, Norfolk and Virginia Beach. The ring of the network will eventually be connected with transatlantic submarine cables and the network ring will serve as the backbone of the South Hampton Roads digital ecosystem.
Hughes said the agency’s lawyer determined that the project’s “middle mile” distribution was eligible for federal money and, if approved, would be completed by December 2023.
The council decided to schedule public hearings for July 21st to amend the current operating and capital budget to accept and use federal funds. Moor said city officials would continue to orientate themselves on project costs, the schedules for the proposed projects, and other details about them.
“What we have looked at here is a start,” said Moor, “these are some projects that we have had for some time.”
Council members generally supported the city’s spending plan for the ARPA money, but said they wanted more details and a copy of the proposed ordinance.
Alderman Lue Ward said he wanted to know how much money is needed to complete projects and how long those projects will last.
Councilor Roger Fawcett said $ 3 million for broadband “doesn’t even scratch the surface,” while Tim Johnson said there needs to be more discussion about broadband, as well as 5G with Verizon and other providers, and what the city itself is doing can to do this in your own system.
“We have to make sure we hit the whole city with this thing,” said Johnson, “and everyone in this city benefits ($ 30 million).”
Mayor Mike Duman said, “I think it is a very fair and prudent use of the funds that will have an immediate impact on some of our underserved communities.”