ST. ALBANS CITY — Rep. Peter Welch, D-Vt., announced on Monday that the City of St. Albans and St. Albans Town would each receive just under $2 million from the American Rescue Plan to be used for COVID-19 recovery-related projects.
“The challenge is really significant,” Welch said during Monday night’s city council meeting. “How are you going to use that money?”
Funds could be used to aid local businesses, adjust pay for employees, make up for COVID-related lost revenues, and can also be used for water, sewer and broadband, Welch said.
The Maple Run Unified School District will be receiving $8.9 million, Welch said.
City council members were encouraged to deliberate on their choice of usage of the funds, as they will be made available to the municipalities until 2024. Half of the money will become available two months after Gov. Phil Scott signed the bill, a date fast approaching as the bill was signed weeks ago.
The remaining half of the funds would come one year later, Welch said.
“I don’t know that we’ve had a downtown business close,” said Mayor Tim Smith as he expressed his appreciation for the funds that helped support the city’s downtown. “We think St. Albans City will rebound significantly.”
City Manager Dominic Cloud told The Messenger on Tuesday that the city council has not yet met to discuss how the funds will be used, but described the money as a “stabilizing force for the city finances.”
“It will create some of the catalytic type projects that we’ve previously done,” Cloud said. “We’re going to reinvest them in the community.”
Cloud said the money would not likely be used to pay down the city bond debt. According to the Vermont Bond Bank, the City of St. Albans has an outstanding balance of $28.8 million.
“Our first priorities are pencilling out the TIF,” Cloud said. “It’s only going to be used for 2.5 years more ... we will (likely) revolve a portion out into the community.”
St. Albans Town Director of Operations Corey Parent said the town is probably going to use the money — provided that it is in fact the amount that Welch described — to invest in some water and infrastructure improvements.
“There’s a lot of growth restriction in the town,” Parent said. “A lot of buildings have older septics ... We’re a designated village area — it’s a water quality issue.”
Parent said the town has already met with an engineering team to discuss what is possible, and said it may be less expensive to create more modern, smaller community systems as boutique facilities around the bay.
“We are looking at all options on that,” Parent said. “Anything we can do to improve St. Albans Bay is just good for the community.”
Welch commended the city council and all of Vermont’s communities for remaining strong through the pandemic and supporting their local organizations.