China Grove Town Council discusses ‘wishlist’ uses for $1.3 million in federal funding
Published 7:04 pm Wednesday, January 5, 2022
CHINA GROVE — Although the Town Council plans to wait for additional guidance from the federal government before spending more American Rescue Plan Act money, members on Tuesday night started brainstorming a “wishlist” of projects that could receive funding.
China Grove is slated to receive a little more than $1.3 million in funding from the American Rescue Plan, a $1.9 trillion economic stimulus bill passed in March in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. The town has already received $672,451 and will receive the other half within the next 12 months.
While some municipalities have started spending their allocated funding, others have decided to wait until more concrete and clear guidelines are available for how exactly the money can be spent. Right now, governments have until the end of 2024 to spend the money. The interim final guidelines on the funds generally dictate that the money must be used for COVID-19-related reasons.
At its meeting in December, the council approved moving the money it received into a special revenue fund and created a project ordinance for the disbursement of the funding. Those moves were made after the town received guidance from the University of North Carolina School of Government.
During the same meeting, the council also allocated $60,000 from ARPA funds in premium pay for the town’s full- and part-time employees who worked during the COVID-19 pandemic. So far, that is the only ARPA funding the council has spent.
By taking those actions, Assistant Town Manager Franklin Gover said China Grove has already surpassed what most municipalities have done.
“Most towns do not have the project ordinance in place,” Gover said. “Most towns don’t have the special revenue fund in place. Most towns don’t have the personnel premium pay policy in place. So, we’re ahead of the game.”
Mayor Charles Seaford said during the meeting Tuesday that he’d like the town council to be prepared to spend the money when further instruction is received.
“I want to be in front of this wave, not behind this wave,” Seaford said.
The council discussed spending ARPA funding on improvements to Hanna Park and the Community Center in addition to purchasing a knuckle boom truck. The truck would help the town’s public works department keep roadways, sidewalks and curbs clear of debris.
Council members questioned Gover about whether ARPA money could be used to improve sidewalks or streets, but Gover said the best way to do that might be to apply for grant funding from the federal government instead.
Councilwoman Cheryl Sheets pitched the idea of distributing funding to Main Street Marketplace and the China Grove Roller Mill for the nonprofit organizations to host health clinics for the community.
“Looking at our seniors and our low-income people, we could contract services but do it through Main Street Mission and Roller Mill and contract with them to set up a health and wellness clinic,” Sheets said. “I know you could use Cabarrus-Rowan Community Health Center. They have a mobile van. They could come and do free vaccines, they could do COVID tests, they could do blood pressure checks, diabetes.”
By contracting with the nonprofits to host the clinics, Sheets said it would bring more people to downtown China Grove and give local businesses a boost.
The board also discussed distributing funds to help local businesses or the renewed China Grove Board of Trade.
“Looking at the interim final rules, business impacted by COVID-19, there is certainly some available funding there,” Gover said. “We just have to come up with criteria on how can I allocate that, how can I request identification of the need or impact they received.”
Councilman Don Bringle mentioned that it could be administered similarly to the grant program Rowan County held last year.
Seaford cautioned the list of projects will evolve as time goes on and is not “carved in stone.” He said he’d like for ARPA funding to be added to every meeting agenda moving forward in order to keep it in the forefront of the council’s minds.