Council Uses ARPA Funds on a Mix of Social Services, Water/Sewer & Climate Projects

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Watertown City Hall

Watertown’s ARPA funds will got to 18 projects, including water and sewer system upgrades, public housing improvements, creating a daycare facility, and money to help local food assistance programs.

The City of Watertown had a “once in a lifetime” opportunity opportunity to spend more than $10 million on projects using the funds provided as part of the federal ARPA (American Rescue Plan Act).

Some of the projects funded include: sewer rehabilitation, moving the Food Pantry to a new location, building a childcare center at the Watertown Boys & Girls Club, expanding the Social Service Resource Specialist Program, creating a one-time housing assistance fund, funding a public health program for the prevention of drug and substance use, adding a photovoltaic (PV) solar array at the new Watertown High School, and a study of City-supported local transit.

The complete list of programs funded, and descriptions of the project, can be seen below.

The $10,742,413 was part of the federal Pandemic relief package, and could be used for public health, responding to negative economic impacts, services to disproportionately impacted communities, water, sewer and broadband infrastructure, and revenue replacement, according to the City Council’s resolution.

After receiving more than 30 applications for project, both from City departments and local non-profits, the Council’s Budget & Fiscal Oversight Committee held a series of meetings speaking to the projects that met the requirements of how the funds could be used.

The Committee held three meetings to hear from the applicants about their proposals. Several proposed projects that did not meet the requirements were not considered for funding. Those were determined by the City’s consultant, Clifton/Larson/Allen, said Council Vice President Vincent Piccirilli, who chairs the Budget & Fiscal Oversight Committee.

After the applicant interviews, Councilors ranked the projects on a scale of 0 to 4, with 4 being the highest, and the projects were given an overall score. Those that received low scores less than 1 were eliminated, Piccirilli said, and those with the highest scores got highest priority and the remaining ones with the lowest scores received lowest priority.

During the Committee meeting, Councilor Lisa Feltner said that she was disappointed how the rankings were used by the Committee, and added that felt there was not a metric for the assessing the proposals on the long-term impact of each project on residents. Felter also said she believes that some items served private interests of smaller numbers of residents, rather than provide a broad public benefit.

Councilors Nicole Gardner and Tony Palomba said they wanted to see a balance across the categories to reflect the values of the community. Piccirilli added that, “Some people might want to put all the money toward infrastructure as the most fiscally responsible path, and others might want to put all the money toward social services that serve the neediest in our community,” according to the Committee report. He added that he understand both positions, but believes the Preamble to Watertown’s City Charter “shows that in Watertown residents want to achieve a balance of both, and he believes the proposed allocation achieves this,” according to the report.

The Committee recommended splitting up the funding so that $4,868,829 (45 percent) went toward water and sewer infrastructure, $4,437,255 (41 percent) was spent on social services proposals, and $1,436,329 (13 percent) went to climate and energy projects.

The Committee also discussed whether to fund the overhead, or administrative, fees in the proposals from non-profit organizations. Councilors said that they thought that a 15 percent of the amount of the proposals could be better used for other direct services, rather than overhead.

In an effort to make the money go farther, and to fund more proposals, the Committee decided if an applicant had more than one proposal that only one would be funded. And, if there was a range of costs for the project, the Committee funded the minimum amount. Also, the Committee asked some applicants — Watertown Housing Authority, Watertown Boys & Girls Club, Watertown Cares, and WCA-TV — if they accept the smaller allocation. They all agreed, the report said.

The Council unanimously approved the recommended list of 18 projects.

Council President Mark Sideris thanked the Budget & Fiscal Oversight Committee for all its “extremely good and hard work” on the process, which he noted is an unusual one to have in Watertown.

“It’s not everyday you have the opportunity to give away over $10 million,” Sideris said. “I think it has been split up in a very good way. Everyone got some things, and there are going to be a lot of good programs that come out of this.” 

Piccirilli thanked the fellow members of the Budget & Fiscal Oversight Committee, Councilors Emily Izzo and Nicole Gardner. He added that he was pleased with the process.

“I think this is, as a resident mentioned, the most engaging, transparent process I have ever seen this Council participate in,” Piccirilli said. “The number of people participating in the meetings, including all the Council in one meeting or other, really got us to a great collaborative consensus on how to do this.”

ARPA Proposals Funded

ARPA-02 Additional Private Workspace – Library. Fund at minimum request. $18,000

Project Summary: We would like to add a new study room for private workspace in the library. The way people use the library has changed during covid. With more people working from home and without offices to go to every day, we have found more people spending prolonged time in the library. Some people are here all day using their computers, attending zoom meetings, and taking business calls. One recent Sunday afternoon all the workspace on the second floor was occupied, including private study space.

ARPA-03 Cultural District Matching Funds – DCDP. Fund at minimum request. $10,000

Project Summary: As the city moves towards a Cultural District designation, propelled by several cultural organizations and the Public Arts & Culture arm of the Department of Community Development & Planning, the city is invited to invest in this key strategy to revitalize Watertown Square and the Main Street corridor. A Cultural District is a state designation that highlights areas with “a density of cultural facilities, activities, and assets. It is an easy to navigate, [and a] compact area that acts as a hub of cultural, artistic, and economic activity and offers a place-based identity [for] collaborative community initiatives.” A city match from ARPA funds would address several startup costs associated with a Cultural District designation. These include a standalone website with strong calendar integration, wayfinding signage specific to the district and satellite partners, and support of cultural programs occurring within the district.

ARPA-07 Social Services Resource Specialist Program Expansion – Wayside Youth. Fully fund. $317,578

Project Summary: This proposal requests to expand the capacity of the Social Service Resource Specialist (SSRS) Program, which will increase the program’s ability to provide more ongoing support services for residents dealing with complex issues such as mental health, unstable housing, and homelessness. This increased, ongoing, labor-intensive support will enhance the likelihood that sustainable change will be achieved. A full-time Master’s-level Clinician will be hired to increase the SSRS Program’s capacity to address these and other chronic and long-term needs.

ARPA-09 Elevator Modernization for Affordable Senior Housing – Marshall Place. Fund at minimum request. $84,428

Project Summary: Installation of new elevator equipment and cab at Marshall Place: Affordable, permanent housing for Seniors of limited means. Marshall Place has a long history of providing affordable housing for Watertown elders, having been converted from a historic home to the Watertown Home for Old Folks (WHOF) in 1908. In 2000, we were fortunate to partner with Watertown Community Housing to renovate and maintain this property as affordable housing, reconfiguring the retirement home into eleven one-bedroom units. The Marshall Home Fund, created by the acquisition of Marshall Place, has also continued the work of the WHOF to assist elders in Watertown and is located at Marshall Place.

ARPA-10 Watertown Cares – Right Turn and Watertown Cares. Minus administrative fee $38,782. $258,550

Project Summary: Right Turn in conjunction with the Watertown Cares Network will execute a three-year, multi-faceted public health informational campaign. The program will fund a part-time position embedded with Right Turn. The campaign will focus on three community-wide goals; 1. Prevention of substance use disorder with a focus on school-aged residents and other vulnerable individuals; 2. Reduce the stigma of substance use disorder and accompanying mental health disorders; 3. Communication to all effected community members clarifying what resources are available locally and how to access them.

ARPA-11 McSherry Gardens Improvements – WHA. Minus contingency fee $24,108. $1,621,760

Project Summary: If awarded ARPA, the Watertown Housing Authority is seeking to upgrade the kitchens and floors for 32 one-bedroom households at McSherry Gardens. McSherry Gardens is a senior public housing development constructed in the 1960s. This project would be the first
interior modernization improvement to the units in 60 years.

ARPA-12 Hybrid Capability for City Buildings – WCATV. Funding the two carts only. $82,328

Project Summary: The proposal is to increase broadcast and hybrid capabilities of public meetings, including upgrades to two City Hall rooms and the purchase of two portable cart systems to allow for live coverage and remote access in other locations such as schools, municipal buildings, and other public venues.

ARPA-14 Sewer Phase 4 Rehabilitation – DPW. Fund at minimum request. $2,500,000

Project Summary: This project will replace antiquated sewer pipes within the City which are deteriorating or broken to reduce or eliminate inflow and infiltration. These pipes are in poor condition, allowing water to infiltrate into the pipes through open joints, cracks, breaks and root intrusion which can lead to clogging of the sewer. Additionally, sewage leaches through broken pipes into adjacent storm drains resulting in higher bacteria counts from downstream rivers and streams.

ARPA-15 Cottage Street Water Main Resident Engineering and Construction Services – DPW. Fully fund. $2,000,000

Project Summary: This project seeks to replace aging water distribution pipes within the City of Watertown located along Cottage Street and surrounding streets. To prevent contamination and improve both water quality and pressure in the Cottage Street neighborhood the City would like to replace approximately 1,300 linear feet of 6” unlined, cast iron water main with new 8” cement lined, ductile iron water main. In addition to the main replacements, any service lines containing lead goosenecks off these mains will be replaced in conjunction with this project.

ARPA-16 Stormwater Tree Trenches – DPW. Scalable. $368,829

Project Summary: This green infrastructure project will support the installation of 50 stormwater tree trenches. The stormwater tree trenches will be designed to reduce and treat stormwater runoff and recharge groundwater. In Watertown, phosphorus is a pollutant of concern for the Charles River. By filtering and infiltrating runoff, phosphorus loading to the River will be reduced.

ARPA-17 Lead Gooseneck Removal – DPW. Scalable. $368,829

Project Summary: The DPW is actively working to remove all remaining lead piping, in the form of lead service goosenecks, from our community. The Massachusetts Water Resources Authority (MWRA) has recommended that when replacing a lead gooseneck, the entire service, i.e., the
gooseneck and downstream piping within the right of way, be completely removed. The City currently has approximately 500 lead goosenecks, and therefore services lines, that need to be removed from our distribution system. The DPW would like to replace all lead goosenecks and downstream service lines within the next five years.

ARPA-18 Watertown Food Pantry – COA. Fund at minimum request. $152,000

Project Summary: The project will involve the relocation of the city food pantry from the Methodist church to a city building. The new location will be more accessible and will enable the food pantry to serve more individuals and families. These renovations will ensure that the new location is safe, accessible, and efficient for the food pantry staff and volunteers. Some of the renovations include new floors, shelves, handicap ramp, increase of doorway to warehouse sized door of 8’ wide 9’ high, installation of a hand sink, bathroom, tearing down of the wall to create storage area, new electrical wiring estimated at $152,000 to complete.

ARPA-20 Watertown Farmers’ Market Food Assistance Program – DCDP. Fully fund. $35,000

Project Summary: This request is for funds to support the Watertown Farmers’ Market (WFM) Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) Match Program, which provides free and more affordable food to eligible customers who shop at the market. In addition to the match, funds would cover a stipend for a Food Access Working Group Coordinator to assist with ongoing outreach and educational efforts to address food insecurity in the community. The WFM SNAP Match Program was established several years ago, and has increased significantly in the past three years, with our match totals more than doubling each year. This funding will help address food insecurity for some of our most vulnerable residents including older adults, young children, and Veterans.

ARPA-21 Sustaining Watertown Community Fridge – Community Fridge. Fully fund. $60,000

Project Summary: The Watertown Community Fridge is seeking funding to continue purchasing fresh healthy food for the community as well as providing a secure, safe & well maintained refrigerator and pantry space.

ARPA-24 PV Array for Watertown High School – SBC. Fund at minimum request. $1,000,000

Project Summary: The project will cover the cost of installing solar panels on the roof of the new Watertown High School project. This was an add-alternate to the high school project, and it will ensure that we open on the first day as a LEED-Platinum, net-zero school.

ARPA-25 Watertown Direct Assistance Program – Metro West Collaborative Development. Assistance of $212,500 plus direct costs of 21,250. $233,750

Project Summary: Metro West CD is proposing a direct assistance program for low-income residents in the form of a one-time “cash” payment to stabilize the economic insecurity they are experiencing. Metro West CD proposes to provide one-time direct “cash” assistance to low income households, earning no more than 60% of the Area Median Income (AMI).

ARPA-26 Expansion of Childcare Programming – Boys & Girls Club. Fund construction only. $1,563,861

Project Summary: Renovate, update, expand basement level to serve up to 75 children K-3 in a licensed childcare program. In order to comply with the State of Massachusetts EEC Licensing requirements, we will be required to complete a number of costly renovations. In addition to making the space meet the licensing requirements, this construction will also address the building’s much needed safety issues such as installing a fire suppression system and constructing a secure entry way. Additionally, these renovations will allow us to meet ADA requirements by making our building accessible to all.

ARPA-32 Study for City supported Local Transit – Multiple. Fund at minimum request through DCDP. $67,500

Project Summary: We are proposing a CITY SUPPORTED LOCAL TRANSIT STUDY to determine the best options for connecting people to where they want to go locally without a personal car.


One thought on “Council Uses ARPA Funds on a Mix of Social Services, Water/Sewer & Climate Projects

  1. Can’t even imagine what replacing the water pipe system will do to streets already badly scarred by both National Grid and Eversource.

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