Public Works nears the relief fund finish line

Apr 16, 2024

The Boston Marathon isn’t the only race on the minds of Bay Staters. 

Municipalities across Massachusetts are racing the clock to use the last of their Covid pandemic relief funds by the end of June, which must be approved through a lengthy application process. 

To date, Dartmouth’s Department of Public Works has obtained approximately 34%, or $1.9 million, of its available American Rescue Plan Act funds and is finalizing an application for a project that will require the rest of the funds, according to Department of Public Works Director Tim Barber.

Dartmouth has approximately $3.8 million left in funds available from the Bristol County American Rescue Plan Act Fund. The funding that has already been acquired will go toward projects such as emergency generators, upgrades to control and monitoring systems, UV bulb replacement and other maintenance issues, he said. 

Barber said the challenge with these funding applications is explaining the projects in a way that can be understood by anyone. The application reviewers also prefer to have the projects quoted beforehand, which could pose additional challenges later on.

The department would like the remaining funds to go toward a larger project that would upgrade Dartmouth's 579 Old Westport Road Water Treatment Plant, which is anticipated to cost roughly the same amount, according to Barber.

At a Monday, April 8 Select Board meeting, Barber said now that all applications have been approved, focus will be put on ensuring this final project application is in the right shape for potential funding.

The upgrades include an above grade clearwell, backwash supply storage tank as well as a pump station. Each would improve the water quality at the facility, according to Barber.

These upgrades would add piping that would “increase the amount of contact time between the chemical treatment and the water before it gets out to the public,” said Barber.

Having shown elevated bacteria levels, two wells were shut down “a few years ago” to comply with groundwater protection rules. Barber said that those wells cannot open back up unless these upgrades are made  or the department orders a boil water mandate. 

The design itself is estimated at $289,000. At the Select Board meeting, Barber said the Department of Public Works has broken the design of the upgrades down into phases, which have been paid for in part by the department’s water operation emergency budget. 

However, with no additional funds available to complete the design by June, as initially planned, Barber requested $50,000 from the American Rescue Plan Act contingency fund.

Town Administrator Shawn MacInnes said the Select Board voted last year to use some of its “replacement funding” for any contingencies that arise during this process.

The Select Board unanimously approved the request.

Barber said he’s confident the department will do what it needs to gain the rest of the town’s available American Rescue Plan Act funding. 

“If there are any problems, any delays in the project, and we aren’t going to be able to get that project submitted in time, I do have about $7 million in other projects ready to submit that have been quoted and they are ready to go,” Barber said.