The final $1.8 million given to the town will go toward floodwater projects in Buttonwood and Sleepy Lagoon neighborhoods.
Longboat Key received the second half of American Rescue Plan Act funds Aug. 15, which the Town Commission officially adopted into the town’s budget last week.
ARPA was signed into law March 11, 2021, providing $350 billion to state and local governments. The town was awarded $3,654,228 and received the first half of the funds in September 2021.
The town is only allowed to use the funding on eligible projects, which fall into four categories.
- Government services to the extent of lost public sector revenue
- Public health and negative economic impacts
- Premium pay for essential workers
- Improvements in water, sewer and broadband infrastructure
Based on guidance from town auditors, the commission amended the ARPA Special Revenue Fund in March, transferring the first half to the general fund. The second half of the relief funds go directly into the general fund, increasing the unappropriated fund balance by over $3.6 million.
At a recent commission meeting, Town Manager Tom Harmer reminded the six commissioners present about the funding and how they previously decided to allocate it.
During the November 2021 commission retreat, commissioners opted to use funding to aid in improving two long-term issues: the underwater sewer line from the island to the mainland, along with sea level rise and stormwater management control projects.
“Now that we have received this final payment, it is placed based on what commission direction previously was,” Harmer said.
For the sewer line project, the first half of the funding was moved into the wastewater capital fund to cover the project.
Last week's commission approval moved the remaining ARPA funding to the streets fund for stormwater management control projects, which include the sea level rise study, Buttonwood Harbor neighborhood and Sleepy Lagoon neighborhood studies.
Commissioner BJ Bishop cited photographs sent to Harmer of the road closures and flooding Buttonwood neighborhood residents experienced the weekend prior to the meeting as a result of high tide and heavy rain hitting the area.
“The sea level rise issues at full moon now are almost an every month flooding problem for the Buttonwood (Harbor) neighborhood and Sleepy Lagoon as well,” Bishop said.
At the time of the meeting, the town was unsure how close the funding received from ARPA will put the town to being able to fund the flooding projects, but the town has been working to apply for state and federal grants that would further aid costs associated with the projects, Harmer told commissioners.
A similar project in the Lyons Lane neighborhood, previously slated to be funded with federal grant money, cost about $400,000. Even as the project is smaller than those planned for the Buttonwood Harbor and Sleepy Lagoon neighborhoods, the cost still provides a data point to the town to base future cost predictions, Mayor Ken Schneier said.
The fiscal year 2023 budget and five-year capital plan have been updated to reflect the changes associated with moving the funds.
Join the Neighborhood! Our 100% local content helps strengthen our communities by delivering news and information that is relevant to our readers. Support independent local journalism by joining the Observer's new membership program — The Newsies — a group of like-minded community citizens, like you. Be a Newsie.