Bermuda Run may spend COVID money on infrastructure
By Jim Buice
BERMUDA RUN – After approving a resolution to accept a projected available allocation of $792,756 in American Rescue Plan Act of 2021 Funds in last Tuesday night’s meeting, the town council here now must determine the best use for those funds.
“We have to be very thoughtful on how those dollars are used,” said councilman Mike Ernst. “It’s almost $800,000. The town’s budget is $1.8 million. So think about it. It’s almost 50 percent of our budget we’re getting in addition to the money we normally have. That’s a significant windfall of dollars.”
Councilman Ken Peacock added he was looking forward to finding out more on what the town can do with the funds.
“That’s a lot,” he said of the money. “That will help keep you awake at night to make sure you do it the right way.”
Town Manager Lee Rollins outlined the broad categories, according to federal guidelines, where the funds could be applied – to support public health expenditures by funding COVID-19 mitigation efforts, to address negative economic impacts caused by the public health emergency, to replace lost public sector revenue experienced due to the pandemic, to provide premium pay for essential workers who have borne the greatest health risks because of their service in critical infrastructure sectors, and to invest in water, sewer, stormwater and broadband infrastructure.
After receiving the news about the financial bonanza as part of the federal government’s $1.9 trillion coronavirus relief plan signed into law in March, Rollins said his initial reaction after a quick review of the guidance from federal and state authorities was that “most likely we’ll look at infrastructure” as one of the key areas of emphasis on how funds will be spent.
“Local governments must spend these monies consistent with federal requirements but in accordance with the state law,” Rollins said. “It’s two-fold.”
He added that that the town has opened a separate bank account for the incoming money because “it’s much easier for our financial records and audits” and that funds are available through December 2024 while expenditures have to take place by December 2026.
Resident Gary LeBlanc, who spoke earlier during the public comments portion of the meeting about continuing flooding problems in his neighborhood, said when he heard Bermuda Run was eligible for nearly $800K through the American Rescue Plan Act and possible help for infrastructure improvements, that caught his attention.
“Tonight, I hope to learn more about the possible use of these funds to address the cost of redirecting excess water,” LeBlanc said. “This to me is truly a once in a lifetime opportunity to help address a long-term structural problem.”
LeBlanc, who lives at 168 Warwicke Place, said that excessive rainwater from a five-plus inch storm swamped his residence seven years ago and forced his family out of their home for eight weeks.
“One year ago, I came before the council to report yet another rain event that breached the protection of sandbags which we had put down,” said LeBlanc, who added that he has 30 sandbags at 55 pounds always ready in case of storms. “That did not result in lasting damage, but had we not gotten two levels of sandbags in place, our home would have been flooded yet again.”
LeBlanc said he “and probably 60 families” have been on alert to act during recent storms, and he looked forward to hearing more about a recent study by Grey Engineering that included outcomes on “where the water is coming from and possible steps to mitigate this by directing water away from the homes to the Yadkin River to reduce the threat of flooding for stormwater damage.”
Later in the meeting during the manager’s report, Rollins provided an update on a pavement life cycle program developed by LJB Engineering and done as a recommendation from engineer John Grey as more of a technical approach for an item that takes up a large portion of the town’s budget.
“We expect and anticipate roughly $830,000 a year in property tax revenues and the budget you adopted puts about half of that for paving,” Rollins said. “That’s a significant commitment in light of the fact that the tax rate is capped at 15 cents per $100.”
Rollins said that he hoped to have a report in the next eight to 10 weeks detailing the current pavement conditions inventory along with recommendations for maintenance and a proposed schedule of costs that will provide a preliminary resurfacing schedule based on funding and enhancing a roadway network map that will display annual pavement activities and be put it into a GIS format.
Also in his report, Rollins gave an update on the town’s Blue Heron Trail, stating that all the necessary easements and right of entry on the properties to construct a trail have been secured.
He added that the documents for the construction of the trail are all into DOT, “so we’re waiting for DOT to sign off on that to certify the right-of-way that we’ve submitted and then give us a green light to go out and bid the project.”
In other highlights from last Tuesday night’s meeting:
– Heard from Derrick Wold, the director of the Davie County Public Library, during the public comments portion of the meeting. He said that one of his goals is “to meet the community where they are” and that he is working on seeking grant money to get a remote access locker for Bermuda Run where people can put books on hold through the website and then notify them when they can come pick them up.
– Heard from Mayor Rick Cross on the community celebration for the 10-year anniversary of WinMock at Kinderton on June 5 being “a great way to kind of get back to business.” He said that in addition to the food, music, games and specialty vendors, there were tours available for those who haven’t had an opportunity to look inside the facility. “People got to see something inside that they’ve been just driving by for years,” Cross said.
– Also heard from Cross, who offered a “shout out” to Daniel Furniture, a local furniture store in Mocksville that just celebrated its 85th anniversary. “I had an opportunity to go out there and see Mr. and Mrs. Markland and congratulate them,” Cross said. “There’s not many folks that can say that, especially in this time, so kudos to them.”