Deerfield Selectboard lays out plan for remaining ARPA funds

By CHRIS LARABEE

Staff Writer

Published: 05-30-2023 1:44 PM

DEERFIELD — Out of concern that a clawback of American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funding could be on the horizon, the Selectboard has laid out firm plans for its remaining $647,400.

During a brief Zoom meeting last week, the board identified its desire to fund capital infrastructure projects with its leftover pandemic relief funds, as well as use $30,000 to fund an engineering study for a crosswalk on North Main Street, which will secure the town a $113,000 grant.

Ideas were floated for using the money on a Highway Department truck and loader, but in the end, the board voted to allocate $30,000 for the crosswalk study, while determining the remaining funds can go to either the 1888 Building or the South Deerfield Congregational Church, depending on how different grants play out. Selectboard member Trevor McDaniel summed up the board’s thoughts when he said the focus should be on projects based around the proposed South Deerfield campus and downtown revitalization.

“I really wanted to make a larger impact with the ARPA money that we had on one-time, bigger projects that aren’t buying trucks,” McDaniel commented. “I think our intention should be the Leary Lot; the community center, through the church — we’re going to need every penny we can get beyond what we already have; and the crosswalks.”

He noted residents approved funding the Highway Department truck and loader at April’s Annual Town Meeting and if ARPA money were used instead, the town would need to transfer the capital appropriation during a Special Town Meeting.

Fellow board member Tim Hilchey agreed the crosswalks should be targeted, especially if the town can get grant funding by setting aside a contribution, but suggested the remaining $617,400 be appropriated toward the 1888 Building, which the town is looking at as a potential new home for the Deerfield Town Hall.

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McDaniel said funding the 1888 Building is a good idea, however, time is of the essence for the South Deerfield Congregational Church — also referred to as the 1821 Building — because the South County Senior Center needs a home. Deerfield, Sunderland and Whately are waiting on a feasibility study to be completed before determining if the church could serve as a long-term location for the Senior Center.

Hilchey said the town is looking into several different avenues for church funding, including some pending grants, and board members can agree to use the funding — but not vote to officially allocate it — on either building, depending on how grants shake out for the church.

“All the work we want to do is money we’re asking the state for. … If we get to September and we don’t get any Community One Stop [For Growth grant funding], I don’t disagree with you,” Hilchey said to McDaniel. “I want to exhaust the state’s willingness to give us money.

“If we have to shift, then we can shift,” he added.

Before the discussion began, Selectboard Chair Carolyn Shores Ness said she called the meeting so the board could discuss contingency plans in the event that the federal government tries to take unspent ARPA money back, but McDaniel noted that would be a nearly impossible task for an entity that struggles to get through more pressing matters.

“I don’t see a big urgency. The government can’t even figure out how to raise the debt ceiling,” he said. “They’re never going to come for us by September to clawback money that’s written off as revenue replacement.”

Chris Larabee can be reached at clarabee@recorder.com or 413-930-4081.

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