Cottonwood Heights looks to spend $4 million from Recovery Act fundsSep 01, 2021 02:52PM ● By Cassie Goff
Supporting COVID-19 efforts is one of the main reasons cities are allowed to spend federal funds. (Photo courtesy of the Unified Fire Authority)
By Cassie Goff | [email protected]
$4,005,340 has been allocated to Cottonwood Heights by the federal government through the American Recovery Act. As part of the stipulations for expenditure set forth by the U.S. Department of Treasury, the city will receive half of that total amount now and half at a later date. As the other part of those stipulations, expenses must fall under one of four categories. Now, Cottonwood Heights must decide how to divvy the funds.
“This will help us to offset some general funds,” said Mayor Mike Peterson.
On Aug. 3, Cottonwood Heights Finance and Administrative Services Director Scott Jurges and City Manager Tim Tingey shared the four categories for allowable expenses: support urgent COVID-19 efforts to decrease the spread of the virus and bring the pandemic under control; replace lost public sector revenue to strengthen support for vital public services and help retain jobs; support immediate economic stabilization for households and businesses; and address systemic public health and economic challenges that have contributed to the unequal impact of the pandemic.
Jurges and Tingey presented a handful of potential projects qualifying as allowable expenses to the city council for consideration including: contributing funds to service areas/districts; implementing a small business grant program; contributing to the Utah League of Cities and Towns; upgrading City Hall’s badge and automatic door system; and funding storm water projects.
The Unified Fire Authority (UFA), Cottonwood Heights Parks and Recreation Service Area (CH2), and Wasatch Front Waste and Recycling District (WFWRD) will receive a portion of the funds to help contain and mitigate the spread of COVD-19.
Tingey explained how the federal government shared a detailed formula to work through in order to determine appropriate funds to contribute to additional entities. The formula takes into account what was lost during the pandemic year. As of publication, Tingey is still working with all three entities to determine appropriate dollar amounts but $30,000 has been set as a placeholder.
“We must ensure that all funding meets the eligibility requirements outlined by the federal government or we would likely have to reimburse the federal government if we do not meet these requirements,” Tingey explained.
As of publication, UFA has requested all the entities they service replenish their capital funds. Based on the serviced population for Cottonwood Heights, UFA has asked for $71,791 from the city. This would help cover some of their lost funds for PPE and leave time during the pandemic. In addition, WFWRD has requested $5,886 and CH2 has requested $398,257 for similar lost revenue and expenditures.
The League of Cities and Towns hired a temporary employee to help with a technical assistance assessment. As of publication, Cottonwood Heights budgeted $16,000 to help fund that employee’s salary.
The Cottonwood Heights Community and Economic Development Department has been working to draft a potential grant program aimed to assist small businesses within the city, ultimately enhancing economic stabilization for the community. As of publication, $200,000 has been set aside for that program.
Tingey mentioned the splash pad at Mountview Park (1651 Fort Union Blvd.) could use an upgrade for water circulation. The city could look at recirculating the water directly back into the splash pad, which could cost around $500,000 for the appropriate equipment. The city could also consider recirculating the water to the lawns within the park, for a much lower cost. Looking into this option further, Tingey and Jurges do not recommend this option as of publication.
$120,000 has been set aside for upgrades to City Hall (2277 Bengal Blvd.), specifically to enhance the building’s badge system and for the building to become more ADA compliant.
“We would like to upgrade our building badge system to be able to open certain high-traffic doors without the need to touch handles or crash bars, similar to the front doors,” Jurges said.
An upgrade to the building’s badge system would help with security inside the building as well, allowing for more controlled access to certain areas.
“If we hired someone (needing ADA compliance) now, they’d have a very hard time,” Tingey explained. He shared an anecdote from a previous city he worked for where a newly elected official used a wheelchair. “We had to do significant modifications.”
A handful of storm drain projects are eligible to be funded through the American Recovery Act money as well. $825,000 will fund a critical investigation of the existing storm drain system which will include raising buried manholes to grade, surveying and documenting storm drain facilities, and cleaning and examining by camera the existing system.
Additional eligible project may include: replacing part of the storm drain system along Alta Hills Drive ($194,250), construction on the waterway along Timberlane Drive and Quick Silver Way ($173,160), and replacing part of the storm drain pipe along Keswick Road ($856,250).
“We were resurfacing on Alta Hills Drive when we had a sink hole show up,” explained Public Works Manager Matt Shipp. “When we dug into the storm water system, we found it had eroded significantly. This is something we need to address soon.”
While these were the only storm drain projects discussed as of publication, Tingey mentioned there are many other projects that could be pursued through this funding. “I’m worried about what else is out there,” he said.
Mayor Peterson asked if they could lower the storm drain fee since some of the associated projects can now be funded with the American Recovery Act money instead of the funds collected through the fee.
Councilmember Christine Mikell countered, “If there is a way we can keep the storm water fee as it is and move some money to open space, I’d feel warm and fuzzy about that.”
On Aug. 17, the Cottonwood Heights City Council approved the expenditure of the American Recovery Act funds.
Out of the over $4 million, $2,002,670 has been received by the city already. The additional $2,002,670 will be received approximately one year from now.
“The funds have to be spent, or in the case of a capital project entered into a contract, by Dec. 31 of 2024,” Jurges explained. “We hold the additional funds in a prepaid account and don’t touch it. It’s unearned funds at this point in time.”
The Cottonwood Heights City Council will consider a budget adjustment related to the American Recovery Act during its council meeting on Sept. 21.