FARMINGTON — Selectmen Tuesday night discussed possible uses for American Rescue Plan Act funds the town expects to receive.

There are moving parts to this, Town Manager Richard Davis said. He spoke about a meeting with county commissioners earlier that day as the county will also be getting funds.

Half of the town’s $819,740 allocation should arrive in August, he said. A report must be submitted in October saying the money was received and providing plans for its use, he noted.

“We need to obligate the money by 2024, spend it by 2026,” Davis said. “The state is still working on the rules. There’s a public input process we need to follow, need a town meeting vote to spend the funds.”

The rules may change, he said. A Maine Municipal Association survey shows roads and bridges to be the No. 1 need.

“We could certainly use $819,000 on roads,” Davis said.

The federal government is vague on what we can use the money for, Selectman Michael Fogg said. “If they freed it up for roads and bridges, we know what to do with it.”

Davis referenced two areas municipalities can use the funds. The first is infrastructure adaptation improvements that support public safety and emergency management and infrastructure resiliency. The other is wastewater and infrastructure projects.

Engineers have developed estimates, Davis said. Eleven construction projects for the town’s wastewater system would cost $503,000. Paving at the treatment plant would be $71,000, he noted while communications equipment and upgrades for the sewer system would be another $17,000.

“We could easily use all of this for wastewater improvements,” Davis said.

A 42-camera security camera system that would cover all of the municipal buildings in town is estimated at $175,000, he said. There has been no firm answer on whether that is an eligible use of funds, he added.

“I don’t think it’s a good use of the funds,” Davis said. “It has a whole bunch of bells and whistles I don’t think we need.” He noted much lower estimates had been received for other cameras.

The system allows for contact tracing if an employee gets COVID-19, Deputy Chief Shane Cote said. It can identify busy spots in buildings, help with crowd management, he added.

If the system was in place when a juvenile was missing a while ago, knowing where they had been might have been possible, Cote noted. Another police agency was able to solve a murder using the system, he said.

“It’s all about safety and security,” Cote said. Systems at the police department and municipal building are old, he noted.

There’s a fine line between safety and personal rights, Selectman Joshua Bell said. “I don’t think we need to invest $170,000 to watch people all day long.”

Fogg said the board needs to look at what the money can be spent on.

“There’s no rush on this,” Davis said.

The second half of the funds is scheduled to arrive one year after the initial payment, Davis said in an email Wednesday, noting the deadlines for obligating and spending the money will remain the same.

 


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