County spends $4.25 million in ARPA funds
Nine projects targeted for federal money
By Robert Cloud
Waupaca County has received $9.9 million in federal funds through the American Rescue Plan Act.
At its Aug. 16 meeting, the county board approved allocating $4.25 million in ARPA funds for nine projects.
The actual resolutions involved transferring funds, as well as identifying projects.
The county transferred $800,000 from ARPA revenues to the capital improvement fund to cover the cost of a communications tower in Symco and $3.45 million to the transportation services fund for road work.
Work will be done on 2.6 miles County Trunk N from County Trunk O to Little Creek Road east of Manawa and 2.3 miles on County O between County OO and Island Road.
All three projects were already in the 2022 county budget.
The county board also voted to transfer money from the general fund to an economic development fund.
Supervisor Pete Bosquez questioned using ARPA funds for road construction.
“I see the tower as a necessary item, however, I see the road projects as just a way to try and balance the highway budget,” Bosquez said.
He made a motion to amend the resolution to eliminate funding for the road projects.
Finance Director Heidi Dombrowski explained that designating ARPA funds for the highway projects and Symco tower would be less of an administrative burden then designating ARPA funds for the other nine projects.
She noted that the county choose to take a standard ARPA allowance of just under $10 million.
“Doing that gives a lot more flexibility to what our funds can be used for,” Dombrowski said.
She said there would be less reporting and compliance issues with the county spending what was already approved.
Dombrowski said the ARPA funds must either be spent by the end of 2024 or obligated to be spent by 2026.
“Some of the proposed projects may not be spent in time,” Dombrowski said.
Bosquez’s amendment failed 24-1, with even Bosquez voting against it.
The resolution identifying the projects passed unanimously.
So, officially county funds are paying for the nine projects listed below, but ARPA funds are making these programs possible.
Dombrowski said Zoning and Planning Director Ryan Brown and Jeff Mikorski, executive director of Waupaca County Economic Development Corp., “went out in the community talking to small businesses, large businesses and organizations trying to figure out what it is that they needed.”
They and others working with them identified nine projects, totalling $4.24 million, as potential recipients of ARPA funds.
• The Wisconsin Tomorrow Innovation Grant awarded $3.2 million to Waupaca County for a micro-transit system. Waupaca County will spend an additional $200,000 in ARPA funds for the program.
• The county will spend $150,000 to support local veteran-owned businesses. The program will be administered by the Wisconsin Veterans Chamber of Commerce.
• Waupaca County will provide just over $1.5 million to the Wisconsin Early Education Shared Services Network for child care initiatives and to Child Care Resource, which helps parents find child care providers.
“One of the top issues that came out of all these discussions was child care,” Dombrowski said. “If we don’t have child care (in Waupaca county), then we don’t have workers.”
• The Waupaca County Economic Development Corp. will receive $500,000 for its small business revolving loan fund. Money the county spends on the revolving loans returns to the county as the loans plus interest are paid off, Dombrowski said.
• Waupaca County will invest $1 million to provide broadband options in areas where there is currently no internet access or poor coverage.
• To draw more tourists, residents and workers, the county will spend $200,000 for advertising and marketing.
• Another $540,000 has been set aside for regional events coordinators to plan and organized large-scale events to bring more visitors to Waupaca County.
• To help protect water resources and assist farmers, the county will spend $110,000 for harvestable riparian buffers to reduce phosphorous and sediment runoff.
• Nearly $22,000 is planned for testing private wells for nitrates and drinking water.
Remaining ARPA funds have not been committed yet.
Dombrowski said the county will decide how to spend remaining ARPA funds as part of future budget discussions.