Smithfield mulls $3.4 million in remaining COVID relief funds
Published 9:08 am Friday, April 1, 2022
Smithfield’s Town Council is mulling several options for its remaining $3.4 million in American Rescue Plan Act funds.
Congress last year passed the $1.9 trillion coronavirus relief package, which had provided the town $8.7 million. To date, Smithfield has committed $5.3 million — just under two-thirds of its allotment.
Roughly $4.8 million has gone toward public works and utilities projects. Another $421,000 has gone toward parks and recreation expenses. Tourism projects received just over $12,000. The town put another $10,000 toward its Police Department and $50,000 toward COVID-19 supplies.
Councilman Randy Pack hopes to put a sizable portion of the remaining funds toward the town-funded portion of Isle of Wight County’s park-to-park trail. The county last year completed its 3.1-mile segment of the asphalt bicycle and pedestrian path, which spans down Nike Park and Battery Park roads.
The remaining town-funded, 1-mile segment will extend the path down South Church Street and across the Cypress Creek Bridge to connect Nike Park with Smithfield’s Windsor Castle Park.
Even if the town put the entirety of its remaining ARPA funds toward the project, it wouldn’t cover the entire cost, which town officials now estimate at $6 million.
Councilwoman Beth Haywood also asked during the Town Council’s March 28 committee meetings about using a portion of the funds to repair the heavily worn sidewalks on Grace Street, and improve the pedestrian crossings at the intersection of Main and South Church streets.
A third option is to put a portion of the money toward renovating the town-owned outdoor stage in front of The Smithfield Times office. The Virginia Tourism Corporation announced in February it had selected Smithfield’s and Isle of Wight’s joint tourism department to participate in its DRIVE 2.0 program – a statewide initiative to make the tourism industry more sustainable amid the COVID-19 pandemic – which will provide a $10,000 grant to each participant.
According to Tourism Director Judy Winslow, the plan is to use the grant to make the stage longer and lower it so railings won’t be needed. The town acquired the Times property in 2019 and presently leases the office to the newspaper. The stage and lawn outside the building serve as the host site for the Isle of Wight Arts League’s free summer concert series.
“The Drive. 2.0 grant is only covering a portion of the project,” said Smithfield Town Manager Michael Stallings.
A fourth option under consideration is to put the money toward lighting the football field at the town’s Joseph W. Luter Jr. Sports Complex.
Smithfield Packer Youth Sports, which serves children ages 5-14, uses the field for football and cheerleading practice and games. The youth sports group has received a $20,000 grant from Musco Lights, but the total cost of the lighting project, as of last year, was estimated at $160,000 and $180,000. Without ARPA funds, the project is slated for town funding in the 2024-25 fiscal year.
Updated guidance from the U.S. Department of the Treasury allows for localities to claim a “standard allowance” of $10 million in public sector revenue loss. Since the town only received just over $8.7 million, “we would then be able to claim all of our finds as going to revenue loss,” Stallings explained. “This would allow us greater flexibility in the use of the funds.”