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West Stockbridge mulls best uses for federal money that comes with a deadline

West Stockbridge Town Hall

The West Stockbridge Select Board has until the end of 2024 to choose where its American Rescue Plan Act money will go. Projects need to be finalized by 2027.

WEST STOCKBRIDGE — West Stockbridge is still sitting on more than half of the town’s allotted American Rescue Plan Act funding.

To decide how to spend its remaining $230,226, the Select Board got advice this week from Patricia Mullin, community development program manager for the Berkshire Regional Planning Commission.

No decisions were made Tuesday, but guidelines were discussed, as well as some potential uses, such as steering support to local businesses.

The Select Board has until the end of 2024 to choose where the money will go. Projects need to be finalized by 2027.

Potential uses include public health funding, backfilling lost public sector revenue, premium pay for essential workers and infrastructure projects such as water, sewer and broadband.

But there are limitations, too. Mullin detailed ineligible uses of the money, which the federal government provided to local, state and tribal governments in response to the pandemic. Those uses include direct tax cuts, pension deposits, debt service, or legal settlements or judgments.

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An option that seemed to interest the board was supporting local businesses.

Select Board member Andy Potter asked how businesses could prove they were affected by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Mullin didn’t give specifics, but said rules had to be defined.

“You need to set up parameters of the program in advance. Figure out what type of program you want to support, write guidelines. It can’t be an open pot of money,” she said.

Mullin said some communities in the region reached out to residents for input. “Great Barrington has a program where they allow people to submit proposals,” she said. She said she encourages smaller towns like West Stockbridge to look at their most recent capital budget planning. “To see what has received support by the town,” she said.

In total, West Stockbridge was awarded $375,726, of which $176,782 had been spent on emergency repairs of the wastewater treatment plant.

Also, $40,000 has been committed to municipal “vulnerability” planning, a goal that generally refers to preparations to deal with climate change.

Aina de Lapparent Alvarez can be reached at aalvarez@berkshireeagle.com.

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