County seeks updates on ARP-funded projects

(Photo Source: Unsplash).

County legislators want to pump the brakes on allocating American Rescue Plan (ARP) funds, asking county officials to check in on requests previously approved.

The discussion item came up during the County Legislature’s Finance and Administration Committee meeting Tuesday. The county currently has $821,877 in unallocated funds out of their ARP allocation of $9.2 million. Most of it has gone to local organizations and municipalities to work on infrastructure and business development, with some of it going to larger projects such as the county’s new mental health building and renovations to the County Courthouse.

“Some contracts we have not received back,” said County administrator Rob Corpora. “There have been quite a few attempts to hear back from some of the organizations that received funding. There are no time limits other than the funds need to be appropriated by the end of 2024.”

Below is a list of approved ARP projects by the legislature:

(County ARP Report).

Corpora said he will be following up with some of these organizations, noting he will be issuing a letter that asks for financial proof by November that the work will be completed.

“We (allocated) so much money out of these funds,” said Legislature Majority Leader George Wagner (R-LD-15). “If they are not using it now, do they really need it? We have other people in the county in need.”

County Legislature chair Kevin Fitch (R-LD-8) noted the county needs to do its due diligence. He mentioned some unapproved requests made by municipalities that were meant to shore up costs for building repairs.

“I think what has happened is that they want building repairs, but yet they want to use their own money for playground equipment,” he said. “I don’t see where the urgency is for the county to give them any money.”

Legislator Linda Jones (R-LD-9) said the funds that remain should be saved by the county. Fitch concurred, noting that there could be unexpected expenses that could arise by the end of 2024, when the county is supposed to have appropriated their ARP allocation.

“I think the funds should be used for county expenses. This is county money and some municipalities have their own ARP funds,” she said. “I personally was against having people come in and ask for money. I believe legislators should have sat down and decided what was best for the county with that money.”

On the prospect of disbursing ARP funds to help other municipalities, legislature clerk Savannah Hempstead reminded legislators that the remaining funds were earmarked to help pay for a project to bring broadband internet to disconnected parts of Cortland County. Said project could cost the county $15 million, according to several presentations given by regional economic development officials in the last year. Despite that, Wagner called the current situation with broadband connection in Cortland County a “fallacy.”

“Broadband is no longer,” he said. “It is turning into a fallacy. We have companies that are providing broadband on my own road. It is not the crisis that was originally preached to us. We got time on broadband anyway.”