A2H to Pursue Rescue Plan Funding for Dresden
BY DAVID FISHER
DRESDEN (July 18) — Travis Martin with A2H, which is a planning and design firm of architects and engineers, addressed the board regarding the status of the American Rescue Plan Act budget, during Monday night’s meeting of the Dresden Board.
According to Martin, there is a new requirement that cities must now submit an annual scorecard, regarding their utility infrastructure. To complete the scorecard, city officials must go online and answer around 200-250 questions. After it is submitted, the city will get a summary.
“Under ARPA, there are two buckets of money,” Martin said. “The City of Dresden got a federal direct allocation. You got half of it last year, and you are supposed to get the other half this fall. That money went directly to you. There are certain rules made by Uncle Sam as to how you can spend that money.
“The state also got a direct allocation, and decided they’re going to take $1 billion of their funding and put it into utility structures across the state. Dresden got a portion of this money, which is a sub-allocation of ARPA funds from the state.”
Martin said the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation, which appears in the report as TDEC, is the state allocation to the City of Dresden and Weakley County for utility work. “This means Dresden has three buckets of money. This includes federal funds allocated directly to Dresden, state ARPA money sub-allocated to the city, and money from Weakley County, which is providing sub-allocating funding to the city.
“TDEC rules determine how you can spend the TDEC money,” Martin said.
“Dresden was originally required to pay a 15 percent match for these funds, but because the county gave the city money, the city is now what is called a collaborative project, so Dresden is now only required to match 10 percent for the TDEC money.
“All of that money added up gives you almost $2.5 million,” Martin said. “That’s the pot of money you have that we’ve been working with, looking at the summary, talking to utility systems, and determining what you can spend this money on.
“You have to do an asset management plan, do updated mapping for your utility systems, and your sewer system needs repair work.
“We’ll be doing an inflow and infiltration study and mapping of our sewer system,” Mayor Jeff Washburn said.
Martin said, “Usually, we apply for Community Development Block Grant money for $500,000, which would require about an 8 percent local match. If you’re lucky, you might get $500,000 every two or three years. Dresden didn’t get funded this year, but we’ve resubmitted it again. But the FEMA and TDEC money is once in a lifetime opportunity to do this sewer repair work, without touching your general fund money.
“We have to get the application in to TDEC within two months,” Martin said.
Alderman Gwin Anderson first offered condolences over the passing of A2H Senior Associate Principal, Ed Hargraves. He then asked how the city should move forward concerning these grants.
Martin stated information required for the applications must be uploaded into the database and TDEC will either approve it or not approve it. This data is necessary so the federal government will know Tennessee spent its ARPA funding appropriately.
Martin noted TDEC considers sewer rehab as a critical need area.
“Once TDEC says ‘yes,’ the state is going to send you a contract for you to sign and return,” Martin said.
Mayor Washburn stated, a couple of years ago, the city board approved having a smoke study done to locate where wastewater was infiltrating into the city’s sewer system in preparation for applying for a CDBG grant. The area studied was about two blocks off the square in downtown area in all directions.
“We’re sort of standing at the head of the line for funding, because we have completed a study, and we’re ready to go as soon as the funding is approved,” the mayor said. “A lot of other municipalities do not have projects ready, with all of the pre-engineering already done.”
“ARPA funding puts us in a good position to get started early with a project, which we’ll call the Phase I project, with potentially two more phases afterward, as additional studies are done to determine the area of need within Dresden to prevent inflow and infiltration into our sewer system and water leaks, as well.”
Martin stated the sewer study determined, in excess of 50 percent of Dresden’s sewer system is over 50 years old – much of it being clay (Orangeburg) pipes that has leaking joints and tree roots growing through the lines.
Alderman Anderson stated 31 percent of the water piped through the city’s water system is unmetered. Martin stated this is usually due to leaking service lines and old water meters, which are inaccurate.
However, Mayor Washburn stated all but 100-150 meters have been replaced with new water meters.
Alderman Anderson made a motion for A2H to move forward with the grant applications and start accessing this money to begin repairs to the city’s infrastructure. When the roll was called on the motion for A2H to proceed, it passed unanimously.