Communities, schools spending & allocating millions of COVID-19 funds

By David Fleet
Brandon Twp.— Sewer projects, ambulances and sidewalks are just a few of the projects area communities received since the implementation of the American Rescue Plan Act in March 2021.
The ARPA act which provided $350 billion in relief to states and local governments to fight the continued impact of the COVID-19 pandemic have deposited in local coffers and are currently either spent or earmarked for an array of projects as the Dec. 31, 2024 deadline to allocate and Dec. 31, 2026 to spend are approaching.
Several communities are allocating at least some of their ARPA funds toward a major Genesee County Sewer project that will include a portion of Oakland County.
Last year, Atlas and Brandon townships along with the Villages of Goodrich and Ortonville joined in for construction of the Kearsley Creek Interceptor North (KCI). In addition, Grand Blanc, Davison townships along with the Northwestern Oakland Drain Drainage District are also in the group of communities.
The $33 million project, projected to begin later this year, will provide public sewer service to some areas and add sewer capacity to other communities where it may be insufficient.
While Atlas Township has not committed their ARPA funds yet, the Village of Goodrich will use about $197,000 to partially fund 300 sewer units at a cost of about $500,000. Similarly, the Village of Ortonville received about $150,000 in ARPA funds, which was also spent on the sewer project.
“We haven’t spent it all yet, but everything we have spent has been on the sewers,” said Ryan Madis, village manager. “And what’s left is earmarked for sewers.”
Brandon Township received $1.4 million in ARPA funds.
“Some of it went to the sewer study and planning, the rest of it is committed for infrastructure, but sewers are the most ideal thing in my opinion,” said Jayson Rumball, Brandon township supervisor. “It’s in our budget. We spent $120,000 on portable radios (fire department), about $50-60,000 on sewer studies.”
Conversely, the sewer project is expected to go through Groveland Township en route to Brandon Township. However, Groveland did not use any of their nearly $600,000 in ARPA funds for the sewer project. Rather the township divided its ARPA fund between $160,000 toward a new ambulance and $424,000 toward the construction of the fire station along with a new MSP site near Grange Hall and I-75. The fire station/MSP funds remain on the township books since contractor issues slowed the building process.
Other ARPA funds from outside local communities have trickled into the area.
The Genesee County Metropolitan Planning Commission allocated $140,836 of their ARPA funds for a portion of the 5,600-feet sidewalk project along Gale and Perry roads in the Village of Atlas, within Atlas Township. The $500,000 project was completed in 2022.
While local municipalities opened their coffers to ARPA funding, school districts also received a share.
The ESSER Fund is part of the United States Education Department’s Educational Stabilization Fund Program which awards grants to State educational agencies for the purpose of providing local educational agencies with emergency funds to address the impact of COVID-19 on elementary and secondary schools.
The Goodrich School District received a total of $2.8 million in ESSER funds, this includes ESSER L, ESSER II, ESSER III (ARP) and ESSER Equity funds. To date, the district has a remaining balance of $320,000, which is budgeted to be spent by Sept. 30, 2024.
Due to the restrictive nature of these funds, most of them were spent on before and after school programs, the summer lunch program, credit recovery, summer learning camps, mental health professionals such as counselors and social workers, technology for students to learn from home and in the classroom, and COVID supplies such as air purifiers, masks and cleaning supplies.
The Brandon School District received a total of $3.4 million in ESSER funds, and as of June 30, 2023, they had spent $1.9 million.
“We used them to provide permanent building subs for each building. During COVID it was hard to find substitute teachers,” said Superintendent Carly Stone. “We used it to fund our online programming for students, which was a big cost.”
In addition, Brandon used and continues to use their ESSER funds to add a counselor to the high school, purchase air filters for the HVAC systems, technology updates, reading intervention programs at the middle school, and subsidizing credit recovery and summer camps.

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