The Pierre City Commission voted unanimously Tuesday to supplement the city budget with a $1.2 million grant award from the federal Treasury Department as part of the American Rescue Plan Act’s Coronavirus State Fiscal Recovery Fund.
“This is the new coronavirus (funding) that was awarded to the city and is being passed through the state of South Dakota,” City Finance Officer Twila Hight said at Tuesday’s commission meeting. “Their process for those funds was to distribute 50 percent of that up front and then a year from that distribution they will distribute the second 50 percent of those funds.”
Hight said the city will keep the money in a special fund for eligible projects, which include water and wastewater.
“The first project that we just brought through recently was the River Road storm sewer rehab project,” Hight said. “And so we will provide the full budget authority for these dollars and then what we will do is we will have the second half that comes through and we’ll bring that forward at that time.”
Pierre Mayor Steve Harding thanked Hight for her thorough explanation and noted that the River Road project had been on the city’s mind for a considerable amount of time.
“This is a project that we’ve talked about for a lot of years,” Harding said. “And when was the appropriate time to do it, how should it be funded and so these funds are a great use for that particular project. We’ve got several others, too, that we’ll be bringing to the commission.”
Commissioner Jamie Huizenga told the Capital Journal that he isn’t yet sure what projects other than the River Road storm sewer rehab the city will have its eyes on with the new funding.
“At this time I’m not aware of any that we’ve made any decisions on, but my understanding is that, with this revenue, it’s geared up towards mostly water projects,” Huizenga said. “And I’m sure we’ve got some other ones that we’ve got on our radar, we’d just have to prioritize which ones that we would pursue in terms of turning into an actual project that we’re going to work on.”
Huizenga said he’s unsure whether the grant can be retroactively applied to ongoing projects, such as the city’s under-construction water treatment plant.
“There are a lot of details with these grants that we have to sort out before we can actually make that determination,” Huizenga said. “And in this case, I’m guessing that we have to work with the State of South Dakota on the rules on what qualifies and does not qualify.”
Huizenga said the unexpected income from various grants amid COVID-19 has helped the city with its larger projects.
“We’ve had some unexpected revenue because of COVID, and nobody will deny that COVID has been a bad thing, but we’ve picked up some income that we did not anticipate throughout this process, through these various grants,” Huizenga said. “And we’ve had some of these big projects, just like the River Road project that’s been on our radar for a number of years, but it was always a funding situation. So we’re in a position now where if we can get the revenue, we can turn these into completed construction projects in a relatively short period of time.”