At Tuesday's County Commission meet, Commissioners heard from the County Administration, in reards to the cancellation of ARPA projects and potential category addition.
On March 11, 2021 ARPA was signed into law. Among many other provisions, ARPA provides direct funding to each county in the US through CLFRF. For Saline County, this amount is $10,532,376. Saline County Commissioners adopted an initial framework for expenditure of these funds on August 31, 2021, and have since made numerous revisions to that plan. On July 11, 2023, the Commission approved the most recent reallocation of funds, which included development and prioritization of a "backup list" of projects to be funded with any freed-up funds.
On August 10, 2023, the US Department of Treasury released an Interim Final Rule for the Disaster Relief Flexibility Act (Cornyn/Padilla amendment) which provides counties with additional iptions for investing CLFRF dollars in local projects in 3 areas: disaster relief, CDBG projects, and surface transportation (road and bridge) projects. This new guidance is the first time that road and bridge projects have been specifically recognized as eligible for ARPA funding. Fortunately, the County has no current disaster relief projects. The County also has no CDBG projects. Therefore, staff was seeking the Commission's guidance on whether Saline County's ARPA Framework Plan should be amended to include a new category of Surface Transportation projects and those placed on the "backup list."
In order to inform the Commission's decision, staff also wished to provide an update on the current status of CLFRF expenditures and recommended some project cancellations.
Currently, the County's Framework plan includes 10 categories of expenditure:
- Business & Non-Profit Recovery
- Economic & Workforce Development (including Childcare)
- Water/Wastewater Infrastructure
- Broadband Infrastructure
- Public Safety/Criminal Justice
- Continuing Public Health Needs
- Poverty Reduction
- Other Investments
- Administrative Costs
Within these 10 categories, there are 37 programs which are further subdivided into 75 individual lines of activity such as an agreement with a specific entity. Of these 75 lines of activity, 67 have had some progress. This ranges from an agreement being signed or a solicitation being opened all the way through full completion of work. Eight remaining lines of activity have not progressed even to the agreement or solicitation stage so far. These are:
- Maintenance Base at the Salina Airport, $400,000 (Business & Non-Profit Recovery)
- Small Projects with Salina Chamber, $17,357 (Business & Non-Profit Recovery)
- Partner with City of Salina on New Multi-Family Housing, $1,000,000 (Housing)
- Study of Broadband Needs, $51,599 (Broadband Infrastructure)
- Additional Grant Match Opportunities for Broadband, $150,000 (Broadband Infrastructure)
- Fire District Grants, $52,400 (Public Safety/Criminal Justice)
- Health Equity, $60,000 (Continuing Public Health Needs)
- SHICK Counseling, $20,000 (Poverty Reduction)
This total of $1,751,356 represents 16.6 percent of the County’s CLFRF award. There are various reasons these individual lines of activity have not moved forward. The small projects with the Salina Area Chamber of Commerce and the study of broadband needs are in active development. The fire district grants program was newly allocated by the Commission on July 11. The maintenance base is dependent on a federal approval that has not been forthcoming, but the Airport Authority reports that SkyWest remains committed to the project. Similarly, the additional grant match opportunities for broadband are dependent upon the state announcing broadband grant funding rounds. The partnership with Salina’s multi-family housing development continues to evolve; it ultimately may or may not fit timelines and/or objectives of ARPA, but more answers to these questions should be known by the end of October.
This leaves two potential activities which have been “on the books” for some time with no clear path forward:
- The Health Equity project was envisioned as a partnership between Saline County’s Health Department and community partners to address some of the disparities in health outcomes seen in the community during the COVID-19 pandemic. Recent discussions with Health Director Jason Tiller, however, have indicated that interest in developing specific outcomes for this project is not high at this time, and Mr. Tiller recommends canceling the project.
- The SHICK Counseling project was envisioned as a grant to the Area Agency on Aging to enhance their existing program which helps seniors determine appropriate Medicare options. However, no request has been received from the Area Agency on Aging to move this project forward.
Canceling these two lines of activity would allow $80,000 to be moved into other programs. Staff recommends transferring $5,000 to the small expenses line of activity within the Administrative Costs category to cover some overages in promotional costs; this would leave $75,000 for other activities. Currently, that funding would be added to the potential grant program for fire districts, which is the next project on the list approved by the Commission on July 11. Addition of $75,000 would bring available funding for this project up to $127,400, or about a quarter of the funding estimated to be needed to make meaningful grant awards for fire facilities. This would leave the priority for funding the backup list as:
- Fire District Grants (Public Safety/Criminal Justice), $372,600 additional
- Salina Grace Remodel (Poverty Reduction), $195,000
- University Residences (Housing), $1,000,000
- Medical Residency Housing Rehab (Workforce Development), $145,000
- Food Policy Council (Poverty Reduction), $36,800
This would fully re-allocate all of the funding currently held for the lines of activity that have not progressed.
However, if the Commission wished to add in a new category for Surface Transportation projects, as now permitted under the Cornyn/Padilla amendment and associated Treasury regulations, the County Engineer has identified $700,000 in gravel road projects that need to be completed but have no currently identified funding. Staff believes these projects could be obligated by December 31, 2024, and completed by December 31, 2026, in accordance with ARPA timelines, and that they would generate no incremental increase in future maintenance costs. These projects are:
- Riordan & Holmes Intersection: Safety improvements to provide better sight distance, $125,000
- Stimmel & Old 40 Intersection: Realign Stimmel to improve sight distance, $175,000
- Simpson Road between Campbell & Schippel: Bridge replacement and improvements to channel that parallels Simpson, $400,000
These projects could be placed at any spot in the backup list. Some possibilities include:
- Jump to the head of the list. The Riordan & Holmes Intersection could be fully funded by the amount currently available (including $75,000 from proposed project cancellations). If the partnership with Salina on multi-family housing were to fall through, this would then fund both the two remaining Surface Transportation projects and the fire district grants (up to $427,400). This would optimize the use of staff time both by getting Road & Bridge started on the first project and by not having funds dedicated to a program until sufficient resources exist to credibly fund it.
- Put Surface Transportation in the number 2 slot. This would prioritize the grants to fire districts, which have few other sources of funding besides property tax, and allow Road & Bridge staff to continue working on other projects until the backup list reaches Surface Transportation. However, given the volume of projects with no current activity as well as the likelihood that some other projects will come in under budget, it seems reasonable that ultimately both fire district grants and some projects on staff’s Surface Transportation list could be funded.
- Add Surface Transportation to the bottom of the list. This prioritizes those projects that have previously been identified as meeting the County’s ARPA framework. Given the volume of existing backup list projects in comparison to likely funding available, the Surface Transportation projects would probably not receive CLFRF dollars.
- Intersperse the Surface Transportation projects amongst the other projects on the list. For example, the Riordan & Holmes Intersection could be placed at the top to take advantage of currently available funding while the Stimmel & Old 40 project could be placed between Salina Grace Remodel and University Housing to maximize the number of projects that could be completed with the next million dollars of freed-up funds and the Simpson Road project could be placed lower on the list to recognize the importance of Housing projects in the community at this time.
Of course, the Commission could also decline to include a new Surface Transportation category in the ARPA framework plan and leave the current backup list in place. This would meet with the original intent of ARPA, and Road & Bridge staff would continue to look for funding for these projects from other sources. Given the amount of new funding coming to the State through federal infrastructure legislation, it is possible that the Kansas Department of Transportation could open up new funding for gravel road improvements.
Alternatives for Action
- Cancel the Health Equity and SHICK Counseling projects, move $5,000 to small expenses in Administrative Costs, create a new category of Surface Transportation projects and place Surface Transportation at the top of the backup list for funding. This would allow staff to proceed with the first Surface Transportation project immediately.
- Cancel the Health Equity and SHICK Counseling projects, move $5,000 to small expenses in Administrative Costs, create a new category of Surface Transportation projects and place Surface Transportation projects within the backup list for funding at the Commission’s desired spot or spots.
- Cancel the Health Equity and SHICK Counseling projects, move $5,000 to small expenses in Administrative Costs, do not create a new category and reaffirm the Commission’s previous commitment to the ARPA framework and existing backup list.
- Make no changes at this time. Direct staff to conduct additional outreach on the Health Equity and SHICK Counseling projects.
Staff recommends canceling the Health Equity and SHICK Counseling projects, moving $5,000 to small expenses in Administrative Costs, creating a new category of Surface Transportation projects and placing at least the Riordan & Holmes project at the top of the list for funding. Staff believes this best conforms to Commission intent and provides the most efficient use of current resources.
Pursuant to State law, expenditures of CLFRF are not subject to the County’s adopted budget. Sufficient funds are available for the proposed lines of activity as discussed above.
The motion was approved 5-0 as presented.