WESTFIELD — Out of more than $17 million the mayor’s office received in federal COVID-19 pandemic relief funds, all but half a million has been spent or is attached to planned projects, Mayor Michael McCabe recently told the City Council.

The council had requested an accounting of Westfield’s share of the American Recovery Plan Act, a law passed by Congress in 2021 that gave millions of dollars to state and local governments. Unlike the local and state tax dollars spent in the city’s annual budget, ARPA gave mayors broad powers to decide how to spend the federal aid without needing City Council votes or public hearings.

City Councilor Ralph Figy had made the initial request for a listing of expenses.

“I want to thank the mayor for his quick response. [He] is the only administrator of these funds, and the communication between the executive and legislative branch is welcomed,” Figy said, adding, “It’s nice to know where ARPA money is being spent.”

In the January letter from McCabe accompanying a spreadsheet from the city auditor, which the City Council discussed Feb. 15, he said the city received $17,302,570 in ARPA funds.

“To date, we have spent or encumbered $11,529,971, leaving a remaining unencumbered amount of $5,772,599,” McCabe wrote. But, he added, “that is only part of the story. There are allocations tentatively made, but they are contingent on timing and other agencies completing their assignments on task, such as the Armbrook Dam project ($2,127,650) and the Water Department operations center ($2 million). If both of these initiatives are successful, then the remaining balance falls to $1,644,949.”

“Additionally, there remain several unknowns,” McCabe added. “There are areas of sidewalks being worked into the mix, along with a study for MassDOT for possibly three roundabouts to fix Exit 41 [of the Massachusetts Turnpike]. There are also a couple of park projects to clean up as well. My office is projecting about $500,000 as a true remaining balance, but it is only January. If we use the money correctly, we might be able to shield ourselves from unforeseen futures. This has been a delicate balancing act between ARPA funding and the use of free cash.”

Councilor Bridget Matthews-Kane asked McCabe if ARPA funding can be used for levees. McCabe said maybe. He said ARPA funds were used for revenue loss, “for things that people didn’t get to experience during COVID, and for industries that might have been hurt.” He said the funding can be used for clean water, and Westfield invested $1.5 million in water improvements and a significant amount for drinking water issues, particularly in the Susan Drive and Heritage Lane areas.

Matthews-Kane also asked about the expenditure of $275,000 for turf ballfield renovation design. McCabe said when the city looked at a way to try and enhance all of its ballfields, it contracted with SLR Consulting for design work for city baseball and softball fields.

In addition to the $275,000 turf field line item, the mayor’s report includes $41,306 specifically spent on Bullens and Jachym fields, and $20,000 for SLR’s review of Bullens Field. Other recreation-related expenses funded by ARPA include $296,347 for pickleball and basketball courts; $169,547 for school grounds maintenance; and $79,502 for Parker Memorial Park.

Public works expenses funded by ARPA include a $298,499 loader; a $78,849 sidewalk clearing machine; a $32,583 generator; $1.3 million for the “Elm Street Urban Project”; $2,500 for fencing; $26,000 for a “DPW study”; $669,900 for Exit 41 design; $600,695 for sidewalks; $86,400 for paving of Pineridge Drive; $66,325 for paving of Twiss Street; $29,992 for a solar crosswalk; and $15,922 for speed limit signs.

“Clean water” ARPA expenses as of Jan. 9, including sewer pump station repairs and sewer system extension designs, amounted to $4.47 million. “Drinking water” expenses, including water pump stations and lines, totaled $2.25 million.

With no more questions, Sullivan said the committee would not be taking action other than bringing the report back to the council. A vote was taken to leave the report in committee in case there are more questions from other councilors.

The money spent from ARPA as of Jan. 9 also includes $300,000 in heating assistance, $200,000 for the local food pantry, $18,062 for COVID-19 contact tracers and $5,789 for a vaccine refrigerator.

After the Feb. 15 council meeting, Figy, who had initially requested the information, said, “I think the mayor has chosen some projects we wouldn’t have been able to do otherwise, and I think he is spending the money in the best interest of Westfield.”

amyporter@thewestfieldnews.com | + posts