Mayor rejects creating plan for ARP funds

Through the American Rescue Plan signed into law in March by President Joe Biden, Seymour is expected to receive $4.16 million in funding intended to be used for coronavirus relief.

At Monday’s city council, two councilmen asked Mayor Matt Nicholson what his intentions are for the incoming funds and if he has an intention to create a strategic plan for how the money will be used.

Nicholson rejected creating a plan until later this year.

"The big thing for me right now and the reason I don’t want to sit down and spend a ton of time writing out a finalized version is much like last year’s funding," he said. "This week, they’ll tell us that it’s available for this. Then next week, they’ll change it again. Then we have to modify."

Nicholson said there’s potential for Seymour Clerk-Treasurer Darrin Boas to submit invoices near the end of the process of creating a plan when certain invoices could be submitted for "something on the very front end" for the sake of finishing the plan. 

"We’re trying to let it fold out for six months or so to make sure (there’s) not a huge chance of chasing our tail as we go," Nicholson said.

Councilman Bret Cunningham opened up the conversation by asking what the mayor has in mind for a strategic plan to utilize ARP funds.

Based on the current uses for ARP funds, Nicholson said they could be used toward the city’s sewer infrastructure. 

They, however, could not be used toward expanding broadband or to fund roads.

Due to public nonprofit organizations being required to provide data from 2019 to verify losses from the global pandemic, Nicholson said one agency reached out to him within the last couple of weeks about getting ARP funding, then he didn’t hear back from them.

Other items Nicholson thought ARP money could be used for include trying to leverage funds to match grant funding such as Indiana’s State Water Infrastructure Fund grant, a project at Mutton Creek and another project to add a lift station the Pebblebrook Drive area.

Doug Gregory, assistant director of Seymour Water Pollution Control, said the Mutton Creek project has to do with replacing a sewer force main that has been having breakage force issues. It runs along the south side of U.S. 50 in the state’s easement.

"There have been about seven breaks in that line in just the past five or six years, and that’s a very high amount in such a short period of time," he said.

When asked by Councilman Drew Storey if Nicholson didn’t feel that developing a strategy for ARP funds was necessary at this time, he said, "I think if we do, we’re throwing darts at the wall until they give us more guidance."

Storey then asked if Nicholson felt if communities that have developed strategic plans for ARP have wasted their time.

"I really do," Nicholson said. "I think they’re ahead of the curve. I think if it comes around and they’ve created extra work that it may or may not be worth something in six months."

As for when he expects to have a plan created regarding the use of ARP funds, Nicholson said he would guess it would be late fall.