The Norlina Town Board continues the process of determining how it will allocate $168,838 in American Rescue Plan funds that the town received in August.
The most recent step in the process came during a special meeting on Nov. 18 when James Cunningham, Economic Development Administration/Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act coordinator with the Kerr-Tar Regional Council of Governments met with the board to address board questions about what the funds can cover.
In September, the board voted to allocate $2,000 in ARP funds to offer a $200 incentive to each town employee for being fully vaccinated against COVID-19. The incentive applied to those vaccinated after the board’s action as well as those who were previously vaccinated.
During last week’s meeting, Cunningham presented board members with information provided by the UNC School of Government about ARP/Coronavirus State and Local Recovery Funds.
Goals for the funding were listed as follows:
• Address pandemic public health issues
• Addresses negative economic impacts of the pandemic
• Compensate for lost local government revenue growth
• Aid for low income areas and populations
• Longer-term investments in critical infrastructure (water, wastewater, stormwater and broadband)
A top concern for Norlina officials was the loss of revenue from water usage by Glen Raven Custom Fabrics, LLC, Warren County High School, Warren County Middle School and Warren New Tech High School while the plant and local schools were closed during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Cunningham replied that Norlina was the first town to raise a question about revenue lost from decreased water usage and indicated that he would contact the School of Government for clarification. He said that the town must provide documentation of the loss in revenue.
In response to Town Commissioner Tyrone Simes’ question about how much of the lost revenue that Norlina could recover, Cunningham said that he would seek clarification from the School of Government.
The town also hopes to utilize part of the recovery funding to assist with a project to replace six wastewater lift stations. In 2018, the U.S. Department of Agriculture awarded the town of Norlina a $1.4 million grant toward a total estimated cost of $2 million for upgrading the lift stations.
Reese reported at the time that the remaining $640,000 funding for the project would be financed through a 40-year USDA loan, which the town would repay at an annual payment of about $37,000.
Cunningham told the board that the town must be able to connect any potential use of the funding with the specified goals.
Town Commissioner Claude O’Hagan asked if sales tax revenue went down during the pandemic. Reese replied that it increased. Cunningham reported that statistics he monitored indicated that sales tax revenue for Warren County was fairly good through the pandemic, and that Norlina’s revenue did not decrease.
Two other potential uses for the funding were identified:
• Installation of an antenna on the town’s water tank as part of a project to bring wifi hot spots to areas of Norlina through the town’s new camera system
• Covering Christmas bonuses for town employees because town offices did not shut down during the pandemic
Cunningham said that how funding will be used must be identified by 2024, and that funding must be spent by 2026. He noted that funding use must be reported.