Awarded nearly $1.8 million in American Rescue Plan Act funds, Lewes Mayor and City Council is providing applicants with financing critical to efforts in helping residents recover from the pandemic.
During its June 13 meeting, council allocated a combined $1.17 million to the Lewes Fire Department, Family Promise of Southern Delaware, Milford Housing Development Corporation and Lewes Board of Public Works. After $100,000 is spent on HVAC repairs, the city will have about $500,000 in funds not yet allocated.
The fire department was awarded $10,000 for architectural fees associated with remodeling Station 1 on Savannah Road. The department requested up to $1 million to pay for the entire remodel, but due to time limits placed on the funds, council felt it best to approve the known costs associated with design and revisit further financing when a firm timeline of construction is established. ARPA funds must be designated for use by the end of 2024 and spent by 2026.
Family Promise, which initially applied for a case worker but re-routed for rental assistance, will receive $60,000. With the funds, Family Promise can increase the number of families served in the organization’s shelter and diversion program while also increasing the maximum amount allotted per family. The nonprofit says payments will be made directly to landlords and other merchants, and the money will be used to pay rental arrears and short-term rent to avoid eviction.
Receiving $200,000, less than half of the amount requested, is Milford Housing Development Corporation, the land trust in the Dutchman’s Harvest workforce housing project. Initially applying for $450,000, MHDC officials said they believed they could apply $15,000 per unit toward the purchase of 30 affordable housing units in the yet-to-be-developed community. MHDC Vice President Russ Huxtable highlighted the enormous gap between prevailing wages in the area and the price of homes, believing that ARPA funds from Lewes could be one of the subsidies available to bridge the gap.
Lewes conditioned the release of ARPA funds to MHDC. City Manager Ann Marie Townshend said the city would not release the $200,000 as a lump sum, but rather at the sale of each individual affordable housing unit. With construction yet to begin and other governmental entities yet to approve their financial assistance, city officials said they felt it prudent to approve MHDC’s request while reserving the right to revisit allotments at the end of 2023. If construction and sales of the units are not progressing as planned, Townshend said the city reserves the right to pull the funds to provide a year to find a new use.
Receiving the largest chunk of ARPA money was the BPW, which was given $900,000 to upgrade and repair its headworks and pumping stations. The headworks removes inorganic raw material before wastewater enters the wastewater treatment plant, and many of the pumping stations are decades old. It is believed the added stress placed on these systems was a direct result of COVID-19.
Townshend said the fire department and MHDC may still receive more funding, but the process will remain competitive for the available money. Revisiting each situation in 2023 will allow Lewes to better understand which group has the best chance of complying with ARPA deadlines and how the needs of each applicant have changed since the initial requests.
Bidding for HVAC repairs is underway, but that money will be spent by the city, not allocated, providing the city with more flexibility.