Fairfield choosing projects for American Rescue Fund money

Fairfield laid out its plan Monday night to spend the $4.465 million in American Rescue Fund Act (ARPA) money.

Fairfield City Manager Scott Timmer best practices show the money should be spent on non-recurring projects.

“Care should be taken to avoid creating new programs or add-ons to existing programs that require an ongoing financial commitment,” he said.

The way the city spends the funds will be taken into account when it comes to annual audits and bond ratings, said Finance Director Jacob Burton.

Timmer has suggested the council spread the funding throughout the spending period. Local governments have until the end of 2024.

There are three categories the city will focus on.

City facilities and equipment

The city will look to spend $2.13 million on facilities and equipment.

The largest investment is a new fire engine for Station 32 on Dixie Highway this year. The city will also look to replace an ambulance in 2023.

High on the agenda is to replace the audiovisual system in City Council chambers. The system failed last month, and Timmer said the replacement part to fix the system was only found on eBay because it uses obsolete technology.

“As we learned a couple of meetings ago, it is failing and on its last legs,” Timmer said. “As everyone knows, this system allows us to follow our open meeting requirements.”

The city would also look to develop a sustainability plan, which would explore alternative energy opportunities for city facilities. Fairfield would consider hiring a consultant to help the work.

Development and redevelopment

The city would then look at investing $1.4 million into development and redevelopment projects, including the targeting of areas for redevelopment that could serve as the catalyst for redevelopment projects.

“This allows the city to control the future of key sites and provide potential new enhancement connectivity and visual appeal of these areas,” Timmer said.

The city would also look at property maintenance assistance grants, which include developing a neighborhood improvement program to help qualifying homeowners with grants. The goal would be to retain and attract residents to safe, clean, and engaged neighborhoods.

Two other projects would require assistance from the Butler County ARPA distribution. The city is requesting $5 million from the county for the redevelopment of blighted property within the Ohio 4 corridor. Timmer said if this project is not selected, staff would analyze local funding sources “and try to leverage what we have.”

“In the event that’s not awarded, we would have to strategize internally to figure out what those funding sources would be to tackle that project,” Timmer said.

The city is also asking for $550,000 from the county to install 2,500 linear feet of sewer in support of the Koch Foods expansion and other industrial projects. That project would augment Koch’s $220 million investment that would create at least 400 new jobs. If it’s not selected, Timmer said internal funds would be used, most likely from the city’s sewer surplus fund.

Quality of life

Fairfield is also looking to invest $750,000 in quality of life amenities, such as enhancements of the 10 smaller neighborhood parks. Specific enhancements were identified in the Fairfield Forward Comprehensive Plan adopted in 2019.

Timmer said officials would also like to implement features from the Fairfield Connects Master Plan by developing safe pedestrian routes, improving walkability and designing pedestrian and bicycle mobility.

The city is requesting $3.5 million from the county’s APRA funds to complete the extension of the Great Miami River Trail. Officials would like to connect the trail from Waterworks Park through Marsh Park and down to FurField Dog Park.

Credit: Michael D. Pitman

Credit: Michael D. Pitman

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