BARNSTABLE — Approvals are underway now on projects that will receive the first $10 million of the $41.4 million received by Barnstable County in American Rescue Plan Act funds. About $5.5 million of the money set aside for individual communities has been allocated already, according to ARPA program manager Kara Hughes — although the Outer Cape towns have yet to submit their proposals.
A second funding round intended to broaden the applicant pool is now getting underway. In this round, an additional $5 million in grants ranging from $100,000 to $500,000 can be applied for not only by municipal departments, school districts, and county government bodies, but also by nonprofit and for-profit private organizations.
Water and Sewers
The first funding round is designed to distribute $10 million under a formula that establishes allotments for each of the Cape’s 15 towns. The formula is based on population, with an adjustment so that smaller towns like those on the Outer Cape will receive a little more than they otherwise would have and larger towns like Falmouth and Barnstable a little less.
Seven towns have submitted grant applications. Most have been focused on securing money for water and sewer infrastructure, according to Hughes.
Grants for Mashpee and Bourne have already been awarded. Mashpee will receive $657,653 —for the first phase of its water and sewer project — to defray costs of construction of a wastewater treatment plant adjacent to the town’s transfer station and collection system improvements.
Bourne will get $750,276 to purchase two new ambulances to replace a couple of high-mileage vehicles. ARPA can fund public health items, including coronavirus-related capital expenses. The town also has a second grant application under review to tap the remaining $100,000 of its total allocation.
Proposals from Barnstable, Falmouth, and Sandwich have been reviewed. All that remains is a vote to release the funding by county commissioners, expected on Aug. 24, said Hughes.
Barnstable requested $1,965,218 to replace a sewer system pump station on its Main Street. The amount will max out the town’s allotment. Falmouth also plans to use its full allotment of $1,334,782 for wastewater treatment plant upgrades. And Sandwich has requested its full allotment of $849,301 for a water and sewer project for the town’s school district.
While the four Outer Cape towns have yet to submit applications, Eastham Town Administrator Jacqui Beebe said Monday she expects to apply soon.
Eastham, which qualifies for $301,420 under the county formula, plans to use the money for wastewater and stormwater programs, said Beebe. “We are close,” she wrote in an email. “We just need to pull all of the contracts and information together for the application.”
Provincetown’s allocation under the Assembly of Delegates’ formula is $208,003. “We are close to submitting an application in relation to the next phase of the wastewater expansion project,” said Town Manager Alex Morse in an email. “The focus is to provide an assistance program for qualifying households for sewer connection fees.”
Truro’s allotment is $139,312 and Wellfleet’s is $202,440. Truro Town Manager Darrin Tangeman and Wellfleet Town Administrator Rich Waldo did not respond to questions on the status of their grant applications by deadline.
Round Two Begins
At the recommendation of the ARPA Advisory Committee, county officials have set aside $5 million for small and medium-size projects: $2 million will go to small grants between $100,000 and $250,000; $3 million will provide grants of $250,000 to $500,000.
Round two opened with two well-attended bidders conferences. Eligible applicants include nonprofits ranging from church groups to food banks, along with for-profit and private organizations, support or “friends of” organizations, town departments, and county entities.
The first step is the submission of letters of intent. Assistant County Administrator Vaira Harik briefed the 170-plus prospective applicants on what the letters must include: a narrative describing what the project would accomplish, how challenges would be met, key people involved, a budget, and the expected outcomes and benefits of the project to county residents. Collaborations among organizations are encouraged, Harik said.
“We’re not looking for War and Peace here,” Harik said of the letters, yet it was clear a lot of detailed information was required, including annual audit reports and tax forms. “We have to make sure you have the organizational capacity to understand and perform under these grant guidelines,” said Harik.
Letters of intent must be submitted by Sept. 30. Only those who meet the criteria will be given access to the online portal for their applications. That process will run from Oct. 14 to Dec. 2. The county has hired an accounting firm to review the financial information. Applications will be reviewed from Jan. 23 to March 13, and the county commissioners will sign off on the awards in April.
Uses for the funds are in three broad categories: water, sewer, and broadband infrastructure; public health systems and needs caused by Covid; and projects addressing negative Covid-related effects on housing, early education, and child care.
The money can’t be for operating expenses and can’t supplant existing funding, Hairik said, and it’s not meant to duplicate federal or state assistance already available. “No double-dipping,” she said. Grants can supplement existing funds and can be used to partially fund a large project. “You just have to show how the piece being funded fits into the overall project,” Harik said.
While the grants can pay for items like project design, they can’t be used to cover feasibility studies. “We want to fund projects that will have as much of a regional benefit as possible,” Harik said. Priority will be given to projects that benefit populations that have been disproportionately affected by the pandemic. She said this would include people of color, people of low socioeconomic status, older adults, and people with disabilities.
Projects will be scored on how well they address one or more of the regional challenges identified by the Cape Cod Commission, including sewer and water quality issues, housing, child care, economic stability, climate change, and infrastructure.
A group of towns might apply for a project that addresses a regional problem, Harik said. “We’re less interested in town-specific projects that only address a finite set of issues,” she said. “We are more interested in regional or subregional benefit.”
The remainder of the ARPA grant to the county, about $25.4 million, will go to large water quality and housing projects in future funding rounds. About $1 million will cover the cost of administering the grants.