By Erin Beck
With $880,000 from the federal American Rescue Plan Act, the City of Shinnston plans mainly sewer collection improvements, including expanding the service area and upgrades to lines.
“These are all projects that have to be done,” said City Manager Chad Edwards. “And by using this extra money, that means we can leave the regular operating funds alone.”
Some residents currently relying on septic systems will receive sewer service. Edwards also said that sewer line breaks are common, as many of the lines are made from terracotta.
“Our sewer system needs work,” he said. “I’ve never seen one as bad.”
The American Rescue Act, signed into law by President Joe Biden in March, was the legislative counterpart to the administration’s American Rescue Plan to fund pandemic response and relief. The plan included child tax credits, $1,400 checks and extended unemployment benefits, among other provisions. The Act funded a wide range of initiatives meant to strengthen safety net programs and stabilize the economy as the pandemic continues.
While previous COVID relief efforts, including the CARES Act, did not provide direct funding to localities, the American Rescue Plan Act provided $65.1 billion for towns, cities and villages.
Senator Joe Manchin, on his website, said the law marks the first time the federal government provided direct relief to cities and counties. Edwards said Manchin, D- W.Va., also said that in a conversation with the city manager.
Edwards said normally, the federal government sends money to the states, which then send it to counties and cities, as they are subdivisions.
“We didn’t actually have to apply for it like we did, when we had the Cares Act,” he said. “With this, all we had to do was just request it.”
According to the text of the law, local governments can spend the money on water, sewer, and broadband; on extra pay for essential workers; and on responding to impacts of COVID-19.
“As it stands right now, we have enough sewer — wastewater mostly and some water issues — that we can spend it all on that,” Edwards said. “We’re not going to need to be creative.”
Shinnston agreed years ago to take over Lincoln Apartments sewer plant, according to Edwards. The city shut it down and made a “stop-gap” replacement, he said.
ARPA funds are going toward a more permanent replacement. The city also aims to bring sewer services to the residences across the street from those apartments, as well as up Gypsy Hill to the Bunk House.
Shinnston is also working with Harrison County officials to expand sewer service throughout the county. Edwards also mentioned Owings, Bethlehem, and Haywood.
“Water and sewer both will increase property values, so I would be excited if I had a well and septic system, if the city was coming my way,” he said.
The city will also upgrade sewer lines. Roots can grow into terracotta lines, causing plug-ups and breakage, Edwards said.
The money will also help the city pay for contractors, because the sewer lines are buried too deep in the ground for city workers to excavate themselves.
Edwards said the city will also be spending some of the money on water service improvements, but those are less needed because of recent upgrades. Part of the money will go to a telemetry system for water tanks.
“That means that we’ll be able to check it from our phones, as opposed to somebody having to drive up and then actually open the lid to see how much is in it – major time saver,” he said.
Edwards said Shinnston has received half its allocation and expects the other half in August. Harrison County received a separate pool of money from the Act, Edwards said. Shinnston is allocated $300,000 of that funding.
“It excites me to think about getting everybody in Harrison County water and sewer,” he said. “I mean that can only help, by modernizing our area. That’s going to make more people want to live here. It’s going to help the state get back, maybe hopefully get back some of the population we lost through the last few years.”