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Council tables using APRA funds

by EMILY BONSANT
Hagadone News Network | January 20, 2022 1:00 AM

Story has been updated.

BONNERS FERRY — Bonners Ferry City Council voted to table using American Rescue Plan Act funds from the federal government until the full council and the mayor are present.

The vote followed concerns raised by 16 city and county residents who spoke out against receiving the ARPA funds during public comment.

Fey Almond said the meeting was full of people who don’t want this country, this state, this county and city to be taken down.

“Many moved here and are moving here to stay free. The federal intrusion on our lives is deadly and is taking away our freedom, receiving federal requirements for receiving the funds,” she said.

Those who spoke said they were concerned that accepting the funds would result in a loss of their freedoms.

City Council President Rick Alonzo told the Herald that the city’s heavy duty snowplow, which is used to remove snow berms downtown, is 60 years old and is constantly in need of repairs. Since the parts are no longer being made, the city’s mechanic has to fabricate pieces for parts.

The council thought allocating ARPA funds for a snowplow would be a good use of resources, since a new snowplow costs about $105,000, Alonzo said.

However, residents who spoke said they were concerned about the length of the document that specifies ARPA requirements.

Alonzo agreed that the document is lengthy.

“When the funds were announced last year, they were supposed to be used for water, sewer and broadband only,” Alonzo said.

However, guidelines were changed to allow jurisdictions to use the funds for any projects that taxes would pay for, he said. Since enterprise funds; water, sewer and electric generate their own funding the council would not use ARPA funds to fund those projects.

From the general fund, streets, police department, fire department and golf could receive ARPA funds. The council wanted to leverage these funds for a long-term investment, like a snowplow that will last 60 years, he said.

“I’m not sure where the folks from public comment get their information that [ARPA funds] are bad, but this hasn’t been around long enough to know if there are requirements we are aware of,” he said.

ARPA funds will return for discussion at a special council meeting scheduled for Friday Jan. 21 at 3 p.m. in council chambers. The next regular council meeting will be Tuesday, Feb. 1 in council chambers in City Hall.