Barnstable County Sets Up System for Towns to Acquire COVID Money

HYANNIS – Barnstable County Commissioners have moved to allocate $10 million in American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funds to be available for towns across the Cape through an online application portal at a board meeting last week.

At the time of the meeting, the Assembly of Delegates had not yet decided on how to portion the $10 million to the 15 towns but Commissioner Chair Sheila Lyons had spoken with Assembly Speaker Patrick Princi and reported the group was approaching its final decision.

A training session on how to utilize the online portal will happen this week for representatives from the towns.

The board approved the motion to allocate the funds to the towns through the portal, although Vice-Chair Ronald Bergstrom added he hoped Outer Cape towns wouldn’t be overlooked during the allotment decisions.

Commissioner Mark Forest recused himself from discussions about allocating money to towns since he also serves as a Yarmouth select board member.

The meeting moved onto a discussion of regional projects and County Administrator Beth Albert said she hoped they would not be overlooked when ARPA funds are distributed.

Albert gave examples like the Freshwater Initiative to improve the Cape’s water quality, expanding PFAS testing services, and providing more housing services.

Lyons agreed that the county needs to take a leadership role with regional efforts and commented on how those projects end up being beneficial for all.

“Our role is to really do those big things that alleviates the towns from having to do them, the things that the towns can’t do and ultimately saves the taxpayer money,” Lyons said.

Bergstrom said he would let the language of the ARPA legislation guide him through the decision-making process.

“I think we should critically pay attention to supplying people who have been hurt by the pandemic. That should be our priority. That was a priority of the legislation, I think it should be our priority,” Bergstrom said.

Forest also voiced thoughts about focusing on regional projects like expanding testing for PFAS and direct ways to help people in the region like a septic system loan fund.

At another point in the meeting, the board appointed a group of community members to an ARPA Advisory Committee.

The committee will advise the commissioners on regional funding priorities for the ARPA funds.

The following people were appointed to the committee: Karen Gardner, CEO of Community Health Center of Cape Cod, Sean Gonsalves of the Institute for Local Self-Reliance, Lisa Guyon, executive director of WE CAN, Wendy Northcross, executive director of the JFK Hyannis Museum, Kristin O’Malley, President & CEO of Cape Cod Foundation, Dorothy Savarese, Chair & CEO of Cape Cod 5, and Dan Wolf, founder & board chairman of Cape Air.  

Paul Niedzwiecki, executive director of Cape Cod Chamber, was also appointed as a non-voting chair.

Albert said the members would have a short-term commitment and their work would likely be done by the end of June.

The discussion ended with Bergstrom saying the commissioners would step back on the matter of ARPA funds until they hear from the Assembly of Delegates and the Advisory Committee.

By Brian Engles, NewsCenter

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