Members of Haddonfield’s board of commissioners and borough administrators discussed the more technical aspects behind receipt and usage of expected funds from the American Recovery Plan act during a work session on Oct. 12.
According to stipulations in the federal act — including a population below 500,000 residents — Haddonfield is not automatically eligible for all of its expected $1.1 million. Borough Administrator Sharon McCullough explained that the town would need to submit all requests through the state, not directly to the federal government. The state would then review the request and approve any future funding.
The request process has been underway since the spring, but as Trenton seems more occupied with approval and disbursement at the county level, McCullough said she anticipates Haddonfield won’t see any money until after the turn of the new year. Once funds are received, the borough will have a four year window in which to spend the money.
McCullough said the borough is allowed to hire a grant writer with the federal funds, but the writer can only work on the grants that are to be obtained specifically through ARP funds. To that end, the borough investigated one company that created and maintained a grant database, for which there is an expense.
Partial funds could, in theory, be used to gain access to the database, to investigate what kinds of grants are available and then to apply to the necessary grant once written by the approved writer.
Mayor Colleen Bianco Bezich asked if ARP funds could be used to hire a part-time or full-time staffer to assist in record keeping. After a grant is secured, there is a raft of paperwork involved in properly tracking usage of the money. McCullough stated the hire would be allowed, as long as the grant is something that exists within ARP parameters.
As mentioned in the Sun last week, one project under serious consideration to be financed with expected ARP money is the planned conversion of the parking system from meters to kiosks.
“We are looking to not only change to the kiosks, but also have the software and app,” McCullough explained. “So then, you’re dealing with a touchless process: Changing anything to a touchless process does qualify.”
One necessity for which the borough lags behind several municipalities in the region is the ability to hold meetings for various committees and for the board of commissioners itself, both in person and simultaneously online, so as many residents as possible have access.
“We’re trying to improve infrastructure within the building,” McCullough continued. “Trying to set up the building for that in multiple rooms, to improve the Wi-Fi to make sure those (meetings) go seamless.”
Other programs discussed at various intervals are: a rental program to help landlords and businesses in the downtown core recoup costs from COVID shutdowns last year, water and sewer infrastructure, increased broadband capacity and increased affordability and accessibility of the same, and a transition to more computer based access for certain news items and bulletins usually posted on paper at borough hall to keep pace with an increasingly paperless society.
“Our biggest utility would be the stormwater, and we could certainly use help with that, all the time,” McCullough added.
Bezich told McCullough that the governing body would get back to her within the next 30 days with any further questions, clarifications and ideas. Commissioner Kevin Roche posited a switch to a tablet for all board members, citing the high volume of paperwork related to the job, as well as paper shortages and severe shipping delays for bound volumes.