Smithfield puts COVID-19 relief funds toward football field lights, bike trail

Published 5:19 pm Friday, April 8, 2022

Smithfield’s Joseph W. Luter Jr. Sports Complex will be getting a lighted football field sooner than planned, courtesy of the American Rescue Plan Act.

Congress last year passed the $1.9 trillion coronavirus relief package, which had provided the town $8.7 million. The Town Council approved a slate of projects on April 5 for its remaining $3.4 million in unspent funds, which include adding lights, a public restroom, press box and concession stand at the football field for $395,000.

Smithfield Packer Youth Sports, which serves children ages 5-14, uses the field for football and cheerleading practice and games. The youth sports group had received a $20,000 grant from Musco Lights, but the total cost of the lighting project alone was estimated to cost between $160,000 and $180,000 as of last year. Prior to the April 5 vote, the project had been slated for town funding in the 2024-25 fiscal year.

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Another $500,000 in ARPA funds will go toward constructing maintenance buildings at the sports complex and at Windsor Castle Park, and resurfacing the park’s walking trails.

A to-be-determined amount will go toward funding the town’s 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 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 Windsor Castle Park.

Smithfield’s ARPA funds won’t cover the full cost of the town’s portion, which is now estimated to cost $6 million.

The town also plans to put just over $15,000 toward renovating the town-owned outdoor stage in front of The Smithfield Times office, and just under $100,000 to add automatic sliding doors and rehabilitate the deck at the Smithfield Center.

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.

The grant, plus Smithfield’s ARPA contribution, will be used to lower the stage and make it longer so railings won’t be needed. The stage and lawn outside the building serve as the host site for the Isle of Wight Arts League’s free summer concert series.

A to-be-determined amount will also be put toward repaving the heavily worn sidewalks on Grace Street and adding push-button walk/don’t walk signs at the intersection of Main and South Church streets.

The Town Council’s vote to approve the specified ARPA expenditures was unanimous, with Councilwoman Beth Haywood absent.

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 when documenting their use of ARPA funds. Since the town only received just over $8.7 million, the town is able to claim all of its funds as going toward revenue loss, according to Town Manager Michael Stallings, which now allows for greater flexibility in how those funds are spent.