Morgantown councilors review American Rescue Plan spending options

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. – Elected leaders in Morgantown had the first opportunity to look at the summary and scoring of potential uses for the first installment of $5,621.754.50 in American Rescue Plan funds. Next spring, a like amount will be received bringing the total in American Rescue Plan money received by the city to $11,243,509. Under provisions of the act, the money must be allocated by the end of 2024 and spent by the end of 2026.

Members of the public voiced preferences from August 1 to August 21, during that time 540 responses generated more than 4,000 ideas for projects. Additionally, city leaders and department heads were available to answer questions during two additional public meetings.

The categories included water and sewer infrastructure, public health, social services, downtown/community investment, emergency services, planning and technology.

City manager Kim Haws said they plan to maximize the value of the money by collaborating with other agencies and using available grants where possible.

“If we can leverage other funds and use these fund as a match to other grants and other funds that will be our highest priority,” Haws said,” Then we can make the dollars go farther.”

The ideas were scored on a 4-point scale and only projects with the quickest, greatest impact could score a 4 on the scale.

City manager Haws also presented a plan to use $800,000 to help facilitate a move for Milan Puskar Health Right up to Scott Avenue near the new sober center in the former Ramada Inn property. Milan Puskar Health Right executive director Laura Jones told council members they are looking at a property on Scott Avenue that would be suitable for their operation.

Haws told council members moving Milan Puskar Health Right would help the downtown area focus on business development.

“It also helps the traffic and congestion in the downtown area,” Haws said,” So, now the downtown is for shopping, for families to gather and mental health services are provided in one location.”

Milan Puskar Health Right has been in the downtown location since May of 2003. Health Right is a primary care clinic that provides health care at no cost to uninsured or underinsured low-income residents of North Central West Virginia.

The city administration has also proposed a $200,000 allocation in addition to the facade improvement program currently offered by Main Street Morgantown.

“Grants some additional grants which would require a 30-percent match up to $20,000 to be given to improve building facades,” Haws said,” And interior improvements to enhance the appearance and vibrancy of the downtown area.”

According to the information provided by the city administration, total small business assistance grants of $500,000 would be set aside in amounts of $10,000 each to new and existing business owners.

“We might find these grants really do stimulate small businesses and make them vital,” Haws said,” If so, we may choose to go ahead and continue funding with grants next spring.”

In addition to $600,000 to address abandoned structures, funds are also being considered for rental assistance and low-income homeowner support fund.

“These are grants for homeowners to make upgrades to their home if they need a new roof, if they need sidewalk repairs or many others programs for families that have been impacted,” assistant city manager Emily Muzzarelli said.

The city is partnering with MUB to find a solution for flooding in the Pompano Run area. Several homes and businesses were damage by high than normal rainfall this summer. Cost estimates for the project are in excess of $4 million, so efforts will be made to locate matching funds for that project.

Other priorities include providing aid for travel and tourism, promote city events, downtown outdoor dining and clean water issues.