Clarification: A previous version of this story made it seem that the remaining ARP funds would address all nine themes identified through the community engagement process. County officials said remaining ARP funding will likely only address some of these themes. The story has been updated to reflect this information, the News + Record apologizes for this error.
PITTSBORO — Chatham County received $14 million in federal funding as part of the American Rescue Plan Act, and so far $5 million of that has been allocated.
The American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) provided federal money to local governments to help relieve the burden of the COVID-19 pandemic and help reboot the economy. Chatham County has spent the funding on a variety of public services including parks, vaccine incentives and community conversation events.
The county’s remaining $9,390,642 of ARPA funding is on the clock. The deadline for the funds to be allocated is the end of 2024 and the deadline to spend the money at the end of 2026. At Wednesday night’s Chatham County Board of Commissioners meeting, members of the board heard an update about the plans for those funds. ARP was signed into law on March 11, 2021, so that is when funds were technically allocated to the Coronavirus State and Local Fiscal Recovery Fund program, which is how local governments were allocated funds. Chatham County received its first half of the allocation on January 12 and the second half will become available for to the county to access in January 2023.
The remaining funding will address some major themes identified through community engagement efforts from the county’s ARP task force, which received more than 900 responses. The county’s remaining $9 million is set to address some of nine identified themes: housing, homelessness, mental health, public health, education, recreation, broadband, water and sewer, and small business support.
County officials said ARP funds likely will not address all nine due to other funding sources or legality issues. The projects will fall in some of those theme categories but not all.
The task force decided to prioritize potential projects based on feasibility and impact. The top projects for ARP funds are one-time expenditures, which would prevent future fiscal cliffs. This includes the construction of Parker’s Ridge Park, GREAT Grant Match and DSS Housing Assistance.
Parker’s Ridge was already a recipient of part of the ARP money — the 147 acres of land on Pea Ridge Road in Moncure was sold to the county at a reduced price in 2019. The park is expected to include multipurpose fields, picnic shelters, a small playground, dog park, fishing pier and canoe launch.
The county also completed a number of applications for the GREAT Grant (Growing Rural Economies with Access to Technology). The money aims to improve broadband access and bring high-speed internet to rural counties in North Carolina, including Chatham. The county is eligible for up to $8 million in funding through the GREAT funding. County Manager Dan LaMontagne said at Wednesday’s meeting that Chatham applied for the second most grants in the state, and all of its applications were challenged.
Other counties have received funding through GREAT grants. LaMontagne said he expects to hear updates next week. In the meantime, Chatham has also signed up to be considered for the Completing Access to Broadband (CAB) Grant program, which provides an opportunity for N.C. counties to partner with N.C. Dept. of Information Technology to fund broadband deployment projects in unserved areas.
Courtney Cooper Lewter, head of the county’s ARP task force and strategic initiatives analyst, told the board that a number of high-priority items had to deal with housing. She and the task force recommended using the remaining funding to create a housing division to support the housing- and homelessness-related projects.
The next steps of the ARP process are approving and implementing final projects and providing regular progress updates to the board of commissioners.
• The board unanimously approved recognition of the United Way Day of Service on Sept. 17 in downtown Siler City. The day is the largest service effort in the county. Participants will aid in projects including facility beautification at Boys and Girls Club Wren Family Center, book sorting with the Chatham Education Foundation, community builds with Habitat for Humanity, gardening at Love Chatham and more. For more information visit www.unitedwayofchathamcounty.org/dayofservice.
• A portion of the VinFast site was approved for rezoning from residential and conditional industrial to heavy industrial. The 47 acres in Moncure will become part of the TIP (Triangle Innovation Point) megasite. The Chatham County Planning Board approved the rezoning last month with an 8-3 vote prior to bringing the proposal before commissioners. A portion of the property is owned by General Shale Brick; action on that portion has been postponed due to ongoing negotiations with VinFast.
• The Briar Chapel Homeowners Association will receive $73,700 from the Newland Real Estate Group after the board approved a waiver to accept payment in-lieu of building a sidewalk. The original plan of Newland was to build a sidewalk from Catullo Run to Taylor Road. Newland said when the group discussed the project with N.C. Dept. of Transportation, they determined it would be too difficult to undertake and put the existing roadway at risk of failure. Commissioners recommended Briar Chapel use the issued funding to improve pedestrian access in other areas of the community.
• Commissioners approved a first plat proposal for the Flatiron Forest. The plan consists of 29 lots on 42 acres, located off Hamlets Chapel Road near Pittsboro. The plat was originally approved 9-1 by the planning board. Approval of the first plat allows the applicant to complete the engineering necessary to receive all required permits and submit the Construction Plan to the Planning Department for approval.
The next regular meeting of the Chatham County Board of Commissioners is scheduled for 2 p.m. on Monday, Sept. 19, at the Historic Courthouse in Pittsboro. For more information visit www.chathamcountync.gov/government/board-of-commissioners.