ROCKINGHAM, Vt. – On Wednesday, Jan. 5, the Rockingham Selectboard discussed the American Rescue Plan Act funding process.
Congress directed $200 million directly to Vermont’s towns, cities, and villages, giving selectboards discretion over allocation. Federal guidelines have suggested a framework of planning to maximize the impact and best use throughout municipalities. Recommendations include strategic planning, coordination with community collaboration, investing in urgent needs, and prioritizing short-term investments with benefits that will last.
Municipal Manager Scott Pickup said that the federal guidance expected a robust process for each community before spending ARPA funds. Rockingham has hired Camoin Associates to identify local organizations and projects. Pickup said they hoped “to get as wide a net as possible…the goal is to work with the boards to (find) a host of items, proposals, and recommendations.” He said this will meet the requirements for the ARPA process and engage the public on projects in the wider community.
Pickup shared the timeline of the public input process. He acknowledged that it was hard for families to attend weeknight meetings and accommodations were made to include food and childcare so more families might attend.
The first public meeting is scheduled for Wednesday, March 16 at 5 p.m. Camoin will present the public input at the joint board meeting March 29. The second public session is scheduled for Wednesday, April 13 at 5 p.m., with a final report presented to the joint board of Saxtons River and Bellows Falls Village Trustees and the Town of Rockingham Selectboard May 31.
The following groups will be invited to share their ideas: Historic Preservation Commission, Planning Commission, Take Action Rockingham task forces (Youth center, Redevelopment of Historic Buildings and Sustainable Rockingham), Rockingham Incremental Development Working Group, Bellows Falls Area Development Corporation, Bellows Falls Downtown Development Alliance, Bellows Falls Rotary Club, Bellows Falls Historical Society, Great Falls Regional Chamber of Commerce, Greater Falls Connections, Friends for Change, Sustainable Valley Group, Parks Place, and Our Place.
Rick Cowan suggested adding Main Street Arts to the list and asked how the public process would be marketed.
Development Director Gary Fox explained this would be a joint process between Camoin and the town with local outreach through brochures, posters, FACT TV, the Rockingham Library, the town website, GFRCC, BFDDA, and the water bill.
The public input process will be paid for through the general operating budget. Pickup said ARPA funds must be spent in 2024 and acknowledged that the federal guidelines would assist the end goal, which was to spend the funds in the most beneficial manner possible.
The Rockingham Selectboard meets on the first Wednesday and third Tuesday of each month in the Lower Theater of the Bellows Falls Opera House at 6 p.m.