Rehoboth Beach recently received the first half of its federal COVID relief funds, and city officials appear set to spend the roughly $417,000 on infrastructure projects.
The American Rescue Plan Act was signed into law March 11, delivering tens of billions of dollars in aid to cities, counties and towns of all sizes. Rehoboth Beach is slated to receive approximately $835,000 in total from the funds – half this year, half next. There are four areas the money can be applied to – economic impact, premium pay, lost revenue and infrastructure investment.
During a commissioner workshop Aug. 9, Public Works Director Kevin Williams presented commissioners with a list that included $100,000 each on citywide paving, stormwater line assessment and repairs, sewer line rehabilitation and water meter replacements. The reasons for choosing those projects, he said, was because all of them had some portion deferred during the budgeting process, and the additional work could be added to contracts already in place.
For the most part, commissioners were all on the same page about Williams’ suggestions. Commissioner Susan Gay said she would like to see the city combine the federal funds with money from the sale of the city property at 84 Kent St. – roughly $1 million – and do something not already included in the city’s capital improvement plan.
This is found money, not just a chance to spend but also invest in the city’s future, said Gay. This could be used to invest in things that go beyond what the city would normally do, she said.
City officials first discussed spending options during a commissioner workshop July 2. At the time, Williams said he would like to see if there’s a way that some of the city employees deemed essential – police, streets, trash pickup, wastewater treatment plant – could get some of that money.
During the recent meeting, Williams said a closer examination of the rules on how the money could be spent seemed to indicate employee bonuses, however well deserved, were not part of the program. However, he said those employees had been taken care of and were pleased with the way things worked out.
At the end of the discussion, Williams said he hoped commissioners would formalize his recommendations during their voting meeting Friday, Aug. 20.
After the meeting, when asked for clarification on how some employees were taken care of, Lynne Coan, city spokesperson, said 20 employees in the streets department received small raises in recognition of their diligence, hard work, and extra efforts throughout the pandemic and during extremely difficult times of reduced staffing levels. Initial funding for the increase is available since part-time staff expenditures were below budget this summer, she said.
The city could not give an exact dollar figure for raises. Coan said the raises were given to employees of different statuses – part-time, full-time, seasonal – and the rates were different for different employee classifications. In addition, the number of hours worked varied from individual to individual, she said.
Commissioners are expected to take a vote on staff recommendations during their workshop Friday, Aug. 20.