Stormwater and broadband will get the lion’s share of some $31.7 million in federal American Rescue Plan Act funds in Charles County.
The county commissioners on Tuesday, June 8, heard from Mark Belton, county administrator, about a plan to spend the funds. He said that 50% of the funds, or $15.85 million, was received on May 19 with the remaining half to come next May.
“Our main focus is stormwater and broadband,” he said, noting that the federal law “gives us a lot of freedom” in how to spend it.
The funds must be obligated by Dec. 31, 2024, and spent by Dec. 31, 2026.
Commissioner President Reuben B. Collins II (D) called the plan “a pretty solid template for us to look at.” However, he added that he would like to see more set aside for nonprofit organizations. The current plan calls for $540,000 to go for nonprofits, but it is all slated for distribution next year.
Stormwater and broadband would each get $6.26 million this year. Those areas would each get $4.95 million next year.
For this year, $1 million would go for grants to businesses and $1 million for training and business outreach. Those numbers would remain the same next year.
Some $600,000 would go for reclaimed water filtration at area Competitive Power Ventures and Panda power plants. That total would jump to $3.4 million next year under the plan.
Also this year, $298,500 would pay for a new ambulance and $424,500 would go for new fire department radios in Charles.
Collins said, “There hasn’t been one issue that’s been brought to my attention more than stormwater.”
“The county is taking advantage of this very limited opportunity,” he said. An “infusion of money for broadband is putting us on the cutting edge.”
Belton said staff would bring spending plan updates to the commissioners once every three months.
County spokeswoman Donna Fuqua noted that the commissioners did not set a date for approval of the expenditures. On Wednesday morning, Collins said the county’s plan to spend the funds “can be continuously modified.”
Trust offers funding
The Charles County Charitable Trust this week announced the availability of more than $500,000 in grant funds under the auspices of Maryland Recovery Now.
Applications from nonprofit organizations serving Charles County need to be filed by midnight, June 28. The application form and guidelines are at www.charlesnonprofits.org/maryland-recovery/.
Accommodations for building considered
In other news, Commissioner Gilbert O. “BJ” Bowling III (D) requested consensus for staff to look into how Lancaster County, Pa., and St. Mary’s County handle permits for Amish.
“They’re buying land everywhere in the county, and they’re moving,” he said, noting they have challenges because they don’t use running water or electricity.
He urged staff to come up with a policy on how to accommodate the Amish. For example, he noted that county code requires sprinklers to be installed, but this is impractical because Amish do not have running water.
Collins and Commissioner Amanda M. Stewart (D) agreed to the consensus.