Lansdale seeks projects using stimulus funds

LANSDALE — With 2022 now well underway, borough officials are beginning to plan how to use the city’s federal COVID stimulus funds.

“When we reviewed our budget last year, to approve our 2022 budget, we talked about several infrastructure projects that we thought might qualify for this funding,” said Borough Director John Ernest.

“What you see is a list of those projects, from each of the departments, and each of the committees will talk about their specific projects that made that list,” he said.

Last fall, the board discussed how to use the approximately $1.78 million available in various federal COVID stimulus bills and ultimately opted to use just over $312,000 to balance the 2022 budget, to compensate for revenue losses due to the pandemic and the associated economic downturn. On Wednesday evening, Ernst and the borough’s chief financial officer, Glenn Dickerson, explained to the council’s administration and finance committee how the various city departments began to identify possible uses for the 1.4 million remaining dollars, on projects that meet federal requirements.

“The first payment was in July, half that amount, $890,000. The second payment, of the exact same amount, will be a year after our first deposit, which will be in June or July of this year” , Ernst said.

Early indications are that all uses of funds should be allocated by the end of 2023, and projects should be committed or under contract by the end of 2024 and completed by 2026, he added. . As of Wednesday evening, staff had identified about $1.2 million in possible uses, leaving about $207,000 remaining and broken down by department.

“As we start having these discussions on the project, because it is a budgeted money expenditure, the board will have to indicate to move forward with approval to spend the money on these particular projects,” Ernst said.

Of the $1.26 million with identified allocations, staff have targeted approximately $600,000 for use on various public works department projects, $425,000 for electrical service, $192,300 for the waste treatment plant sewage and $50,000 for administration. The largest single project, the $600,000 for public works, will likely go to various road repaving projects via microsurfacing or overlays to prevent larger expenditures later.

“Some of them are more expensive than others, but the $600,000 investment in this technology will help us extend the life of these roads, saving us nearly a million dollars in other costs,” Ernst said.

The next largest allocation, $425,000 for electrical service, includes a $125,000 roof replacement for the Ninth Street electrical service offices discussed during budget discussions last year, as well as a replacement of $110,000 garage door, $100,000 in new relay equipment and $90,000 for repairs and replacement of paving lots there.

“There is potential for fiber optics, investment in 5G and upgrading some of our traffic lights” that could also benefit from the funds, the official told the committee.

The $192,000 identified for the wastewater treatment plan includes a total of six possible projects, including just under $80,000 for fiberglass covers for two clarifiers, $60,000 for the pump station and building heaters, $31,000 for a fiberglass tank and smaller equipment upgrades which Ernst says will “help upgrade not just processes, but equipment as well, at the future.” The $50,000 identified for the administration department would largely go towards upgrades and improvements to the Borough’s website, which underwent a major overhaul in 2014 and has been updated again in 2018 to add a search bar and drop-down menus.

“It was definitely pre-COVID, so it’s on our radar,” Ernst said.

Discussions on each of these projects will take place at each committee over the next two to three months, after which the Board will be asked for comment and approval if the Board decides to proceed. Dickerson added that a qualifying tip should be kept in mind: Spending more than $750,000 of the funds in one year could trigger a stricter federal audit than the typical annual audit the borough undertakes.

“We need to make sure that since we have time to plan these projects, we need to make sure that we schedule them so that we don’t trigger this audit,” Dickerson said.

Council Chairman Denton Burnell asked if staff could give the committee a summary of the rules and regulations for the use of funds, and Ernst said the main such document was over 400 pages, but staff could prepare a summary.

“Most of the municipalities I’ve interacted with, or in meetings with other managers, are moving towards infrastructure upgrades, whether it’s sewage, stormwater, stormwater harvesting” , Ernst said.

“Most municipalities, including this one, need an influx of money into infrastructure, and that’s one of those things that we don’t get every day, 1.7 million dollars to help offset some of those costs,” he said.

Councilwoman Rachael Bollens asked why the city’s Parks and Recreation and Police Departments don’t have specific uses for the funds, and Ernst said those departments will continue discussions about capital projects in using regular borough funds, but would likely not be eligible for stimulus uses.

Next Borough Council meeting at 7 p.m. on February 16 and next Administration and Finance Committee meeting at 6:30 p.m. on March 2, both at the Borough Municipal Building, 1 Vine Street. For more information, visit www.Lansdale.org.

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