Petersburg’s first use of one kind of emergency COVID funding will be a portion of the cost of a covered deck at the borough’s elderly housing and assisted living facility. The borough assembly Tuesday voted to pay remaining costs of the project but only after voicing concerns about spending public money on something that started as a privately funded addition.
Congress passed the American Rescue Plan Act this year, meant to address the continued impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the economy, government funding, individuals and businesses. Petersburg’s allocation from that legislation eventually will be $633,420. It’s separate from other emergency funding the borough has received and the local government hasn’t spent any of it until now.
Assembly member Dave Kensinger supported using up to 20,000 dollars of that to pay for the remaining costs of on the Deck Out the Deck covered deck at Mountain View Manor.
“There’s quite a bit of work that’s been done on this, this is a really nice addition,” Kensinger said. “What we’re asking to do is to fund approximately 4500 dollars in electrical work that hasn’t been done yet and the balance of what is owed on this project. As you can see it’s already been completed.”
The deck addition was the result of a local effort; donations have topped 45,000 dollars. Local resident Sally Dwyer has spearheaded that fund raising.
“Our main goal was to provide a healthy, outdoor space to use year round,” Dwyer told the assembly. “The other goal was to include the community with donations, awareness of the residents’ needs and provide a wonderful gift to the facility to use for many years.”
The initial budget was 84,000 dollars for the work. That rose to $112,000 because of increased costs during the pandemic. The Petersburg Indian Association donated around 32-thousand dollars of construction materials. Local contractor Ty Cummins built the deck. The payment from the borough will mostly repay his work and also fund some electrical upgrades that will allow plug in heaters for the space.
Assembly members thanked the local residents and businesses who raised money for the work but were wary about spending public money on something that started as a private project.
“We have a private entity put together something and then the borough is asked to come in towards the end to kind of help finish it up. It kind of puts me personally, it puts me in a tough spot, because I haven’t been able to see what’s gone on previously with the construction process and who’s supervising what,” said assembly member Jeff Meucci.
He also wondered about the borough having a plan for spending the federal funding. Borough manager Steve Giesbrecht responded there’s no plan for that money.
“This is as good a use as any I suppose but down the road clearly there’s going to be other COVID related expenses that are going to pop up and we’re going to have to, the assembly’s going to have to talk about do you want to use it for one of those purposes,” Giesbrecht said.
Other assembly members argued this was a good use of the money. Ultimately the vote was unanimous to spend up to 20-thousand dollars on the deck.
The borough has only received half of its payment from the American Rescue Plan Act; the money has to be spent by the end of 2024 for public health response and other uses.