Challenges and success stories of American Rescue Plan spending shared by municipal leaders

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — During meetings of the West Virginia Municipal League, officials were able to share challenges and success stories of American Rescue Plan spending.

The American Rescue Plan was passed into law in March of 2021 and sent $4 billion to West Virginia over the next two years. Of that sum, cities and counties shared more than $2 billion.

Chris Tatum

West Virginia Municipal League President and Barboursville Mayor Chris Tatum said the disbursement of the first tranche of relief money demonstrates the law is filling the intended purpose.

“Rescue plan funding has been a super important one to keep cities whole but also to advance those projects that might have not been able to have been done otherwise,” Tatum said.

Barboursville received about $1.4 million and used a portion for the completion of an important sewer project. The 12-acre lagoon system is being rerouted to the Pea Ridge Public Service Department. When complete the area will be repurposed for economic development.

Wheeling received a total of $28.5 million, or about equal to an entire annual budget. Mayor Glenn Elliott said the challenge has been prioritizing requests from community organizations, needs within city departments and infrastructure projects. Elliot explained one-third of the first tranche has been allocated.

“The bill does specify water and sewer infrastructure projects as eligible and we have a lot of needs in that regard like most cities across the state,” Elliott said. “So, we’re looking at it from across the board, we’ve probably allocated one-third of our money so far, but we really have a lot left being cued up for discussion.”

Wheeling Mayor Glenn Elliott

Elliott said the one-time influx of cash has provided opportunities to complete improvements and upgrades much faster outside the normal budget process. City leaders are evaluating requests and projects to maximize the value of every relief dollar.

“Our goal is to make that money multiply so we’re making investments that are going to come back in years to come, not just fixing things that are going to have a one time impact,” Elliott said. ” So that’s what we’re trying to focus on but it’s harder to do than you might think.”

Parkersburg received about $22.4 million and Mayor Tom Joyce was able to quickly initiate a long needed public utility project and invest a substantial amount of the first installment.

Mayor Tom Joyce

“We had a water project that was engineered and ready to go, so we invested the first tranche of $11 million, about $8 million of that went to water and sewer infrastructure.”

Joyce said the money presents opportunities to address quality of life issues that will benefit neighborhoods for many years to come. City leaders are actively accepting public comment on projects.

“We’re working right now through some public comment on doing some exciting things in the next round,” Joyce said. “Hopefully we’ll be announcing soon a major rehabilitation to our large baseball field in Parkersburg City Park- Bennett Stump Field.”

The West Virginia Municipal League’s annual meeting wrapped up Friday in Morgantown.

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