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Berlin modifies, renames ARPA items

Moves intended to secure more funding for projects considered high priority

The Berlin Town Council on Monday made a couple of rearrangements to its plans for the $4.8 million the town will get in American Rescue Plan Act money, including beefing up stormwater project funding and protecting the Berlin Fire Company from losing funds.

On twin 5-0 votes, the council approved an amendment to increase the funding line “Projects TBD” — for stormwater projects that have not yet been determined — from $250,000 to $428,000 and change the funding line “Self Contained Breathing Apparatus (SCBA)” to read “Capital projects to be determined.”

Photo by Greg Ellison
Berlin Fire Company President Dave Fitzgerald is seen here in 2021 addressing the Berlin Town Council.

The money going into future stormwater projects comes from $124,000 earmarked for portable radios for “Police, Public Works, Water Resources, Electric” and $54,000 from grants to businesses. The shift reduces the former funding line to $11,500 and completely eliminates the latter.

A representative from EA Engineering stated the company’s case for prioritizing stormwater to the council.

“Rather than using that chunk of change for one project, this way we can piece off some of that (money) to do something else, maybe straightforward infrastructure projects that we need,” he said. “Those projects are typically less likely to apply to a grant.”

“The grant funding cycle is really … fall. And they’re due December-January timeframe, so right now is a great time to plan this, get some concepts together and get a really polished grant application and plan together. We contact them now … and show them (what we’re striving for.) They’re not unfamiliar with the town of Berlin. They’ve been here many times and know these projects. Some of them are easy to do.”

The future stormwater project funding amount is the fourth-largest chunk of the spending plan, after $1 million apiece for sewer treatment plant upgrades and the Broad Street Lift Station funding and $754,990 for smart water meters.

After that approval, Berlin Fire Company President David Fitzgerald pointed out from the crowd that the current language for the SCBA equipment could be seen as “supplanting funds,” which would lead to those funds being lost.

“We can leverage (funding) if the same verbiage is used (as what you just decided for stormwater,” Fitzgerald said. “I talked to FEMA today to change the verbiage to something similar to what you have for stormwater, to say this expenditure will be used to fund Berlin Fire Company capital expenses.”

“If you list specifically that (SCBA) product and we receive that grant, they will look at this as supplanting of funds, because you approved in your budgets specifically funding for those items. That could reduce the $440,000 grant that we all told you that we’ve applied (for with) the Department of Homeland Security and FEMA. So I urge you to do the same thing you just heard with stormwater management. If you change that verbiage, we could possibly leverage those grant funds of $220,000 to another grant.”

Tyndall pointed out that that means the funding, totaling $220,000, would be directly locked to council approval for any future projects, to which Fitzgerald said he understood.

The town has already received $2.4 million of the ARPA funding. It expects to see the remaining $2.4 million in the last quarter of FY22, which is underway and concludes on June 30.

This story appears in the print version of Bayside Gazette on May 26, 2022.