CASA GRANDE — Thanks to the American Rescue Plan Act passed in March, Casa Grande will have $11.4 million extra to play with over the next two years. According to City Manager Larry Rains, the city has already received half that money, and the city is now ready to begin narrowing down options for spending it.
During a study session on Monday evening, Rains provided an overview of possible uses for the money and what constraints were placed upon the funds.
Rains divided the potential uses into four main categories: dealing with the negative impacts of COVID-19, offering premium pay for eligible, i.e. essential, workers, supplementing government services due to loss of revenue and investing in water, sewer and/or broadband infrastructure.
Unfortunately, one promising project that cannot draw from the ARPA money is the Community Recreation Center, because it is less than three years old.
Rains also recommended the city not use ARPA on broadband projects, as the city already had agreements with several broadband companies moving into the community and there were other funding options available for those types of projects.
The city has already received a variety of input from members of the public. Rains says the most popular public requests included: financial support for cultural events in the city, a program to help residents with past due sewer and trash billings or assisting nonprofits with lease payments to the city for using facilities.
Rains, however, recommended putting the money into one-time infrastructure projects, a strategy Mayor Craig McFarland agreed with.
“I think infrastructure and water are critical at this point in time,” McFarland said. “With the growth we are experiencing, it behooves us to concentrate this money in specific areas.”
City Councilman Matt Herman said it made more sense for a “one time money, one time expense” approach.
The three projects the City Manager’s Office was recommending were: a $2.1 million relief sewer main under Florence Boulevard, which would extend the sewer system’s capacity; $1.75 million for construction of a planned effluent recharge facility near Dave White Regional Park on the city’s western edge; and $1.8 million for expansion of the wastewater treatment plant.
The city had previously assisted local businesses and nonprofits affected by COVID-19 using money from the CG CARES program, which doled out over $550,000 to businesses and $216,000 for residential assistance between fall of 2020 and early 2021. That also included food bank support, help with rent and utilities, child care and internet access. The city has additional funds from CG CARES to use going forward.
All funds from ARPA must be used by Dec. 31, 2026. Overall, the aid package gave out $1.9 trillion, including $350 billion to state and local governments.