Blaine City Council unanimously approved city manager Michael Jones to submit two requests to Whatcom County to use the county’s American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funds. The city is requesting $2.5 million for a sewer rehabilitation project in the Lettered Street neighborhood, part of the large east Blaine sewer project, and $500,000 for a North Harvey Road water pump station.
Their $2.5 million ARPA funds would pay for only one-third of the estimated $7.5 million east Blaine sewer project. The project is needed to support current residents, in addition to east Blaine construction that is expected to bring 1,400 homes in the next 15 years. The city of Blaine’s public works department alerted council of the dilapidated east Blaine sewer in March 2021, after sewage leaked into streets west and southwest of Blaine school district in summer 2020. The project will require repairing existing lines, some that are 90-years-old, and will add a new 1,550-foot line.
The city is still finding funding resources to pay for the sewer project, but anticipates borrowing most of the money, using $500,000 from the city of Blaine’s ARPA funds and applying for a $500,000 capital allocation from the state. “The city would still be contributing the lion’s share of funding to develop that project,” Jones said during the meeting.
The North Harvey Road water pump will serve areas adjacent to and east of the road, according to a memo Jones prepared for city council. The $500,000 of county ARPA funds would only pay for one-third of the estimated $1.5 million project. As east Blaine development increases demand for water usage, the city will increase the number of pumps in the area, according to the memo.
The city had also considered asking for money for the downtown streetscape rehabilitation project, Jones said, but ultimately decided the project didn’t fall into the full purview of the county’s ARPA funds. The city is still looking for $500,000 for the $1.7 million project. “We’re going to look at that a little bit more and seek other alternatives and possible other avenues that might make ARPA available in that area, but I think since we’re requesting another government agency to give us some of their ARPA funds for use for our mutual citizens, the county and city citizens, I think it’s best if we stick with ones that are very clearly eligible,” Jones said.
Whatcom County received $44 million in ARPA funding, a Covid-19 stimulus package from the federal government. APRA funds are focused on public health, housing security, childcare expansion and infrastructure, according to the memo.
The county is expected to approve the funds during the biennial budget amendment near the end of 2021.
“I’ve been coordinating for quite a while now with the county, being very engaged with executive Sidhu and his staff on these items,” Jones said. “I think we have a solid chance of receiving funding, although the $2.5 million might be too big of an ask. We will see. Better to ask and be reduced than not ask.”