Amid course of dispute, Barnstable County asks for public enter on ARPA spending – Cape Cod Occasions

BARNSTABLE — Squabbling continues over the roles that Barnstable County’s legislative and govt branches ought to play in spending greater than $41 million in federal American Rescue Plan Act reduction cash as county officers flip their focus to soliciting neighborhood enter on how the large pot of funding may gain advantage Cape Codders.
A public remark interval is now open by means of Feb. 4, as introduced by the Board of Regional Commissioners and endorsed by the Meeting of Delegates in a pair of press releases final week.
Barnstable County residents are invited to provide their suggestions on how ARPA funds ought to be spent by means of a web based survey, by electronic mail or by telephone (see field). Respondents should present their full names and addresses for submissions to be thought-about.
In November, the Board of Regional Commissioners voted unanimously to set ranked spending priorities for the county’s greater than $41 million in ARPA funds, priorities the Meeting of Delegates has not objected to.
These priorities are — so as — water, sewer and broadband infrastructure investments; public well being system investments; financial reduction for individuals, enterprise, nonprofits and communities harm by COVID-19; and changing public sector income and important employee pay misplaced to the pandemic.
Along with soliciting public remark, a county ARPA crew — the members of which haven’t but been introduced — will meet with members of the Meeting of Delegates and elected and appointed officers in Cape cities to be taught extra about regional spending priorities for the cash, in line with the Board of Regional Commissioners.
These conferences haven’t but been scheduled, however are on account of be held this month. The county can even host a “stakeholder engagement course of,” although particulars on what that course of will entail haven’t been introduced.
Earlier protection
Each the Meeting and the Commissioners are on account of meet Wednesday, with ARPA funding engagement on the Commissioners’ agenda, so new info could also be accessible this week.
County and state leaders say the results of all of the enter and decision-making may make massive variations within the space’s future.
“Cape Cod has an incredible alternative to make the most of American Rescue Plan Act funds to make progress in key areas for our area, together with defending our water, investing in sewering and nitrogen discount efforts, and increasing entry to broadband web,” mentioned Barnstable County Commissioners Ron Bergstrom, Mark Forest and Sheila Lyons in a press launch asserting the launch of the general public remark interval.
“We’re grateful for the work of the Biden-Harris administration and our congressional delegation for authorizing these funds,” they added. “Now the County is raring to maneuver ahead with a public enter course of and plan for disbursement of those funds over the following a number of years.”
State Sen. Julian Cyr, D-Truro, known as the ARPA funds “a once-in-a-generation alternative.”
“With these {dollars}, we now have the possibility to assist revitalize Cape Cod as we emerge from a troublesome two years,” Cyr mentioned in a written assertion within the Commissioners’ press launch. “I encourage all Cape Codders to affix us in realizing a resilient peninsula by collaborating within the public remark interval.”
“I encourage everybody to supply their ideas, together with the oldsters from our hard-hit small enterprise neighborhood and cultural sector, who assist drive our Cape Cod financial system,” mentioned state Rep. Timothy Whelan, R-Brewster, within the launch. “Let your voices be heard.”
The general public involvement course of proposed by the Board of Regional Commissioners received the approval of Meeting management, who applauded the plan in a launch.
“It’s crucial that the County ARPA spending course of strikes forward expeditiously so issues attributable to the pandemic might be remedied,” Meeting Speaker Patrick Princi of Barnstable mentioned within the launch.
However in that launch, Princi additionally underscored that the Meeting is holding to its place that ARPA funds should in the end be distributed by means of the ordinance course of outlined within the county constitution, which might give the Meeting the last word energy to find out whether or not a spending measure goes into impact.
“The Meeting appears ahead to receiving ARPA spending ordinances from the County Commissioners as quickly as they start their analysis and suggestion course of,” Princi mentioned within the launch.
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Though the Meeting’s press launch characterised the dispute between the branches of county authorities on spend ARPA funds as “settled,” Bergstrom mentioned Monday the disagreement was as a substitute “on maintain.”
Bergstrom — who served as chairman of the Board of Regional Commissioners till this week, when Lyons was elected Monday to take his place — mentioned Commissioners haven’t but agreed to make use of the ordinance course of to spend ARPA funds.
“It actually isn’t going to be absolutely resolved till the primary time we approve some funding,” Bergstrom mentioned. “All I can inform you is that we’re going by means of with the rollout of the remark interval.”
Commissioners say their opposition to utilizing the ordinance course of to spend ARPA funds stems from an opinion authored by legal professional James Lampke, who was employed by Commissioners to function particular counsel on the matter.
Lampke wrote in his opinion that Barnstable County’s ARPA funds don’t must be spent by means of the ordinance course of as a result of they’re grant funds, that are usually doled out by Commissioners with out Meeting approval.
Lawyer Robert Troy, particular counsel for the Meeting of Delegates, authored a separate opinion asserting that the county constitution dictates ARPA funds should be spent by means of the bicameral ordinance course of.
“What’s at stake right here is the destiny of the county constitution and the way forward for Barnstable County, as a result of until you comply with the constitution or get a constitution change, and there’s a course of for that, it’s important to comply with the constitution,” Troy mentioned at a Dec. 15 Meeting assembly. “That’s the rule of regulation.”
Forward of the end-of-the-year holidays, each Delegates and Commissioners basically rejected ARPA spending course of proposals forwarded by the opposite department.
Bergstrom mentioned Commissioners hope to quickly meet with members of the Meeting to hammer out a mutually agreeable spending course of.
If no settlement is reached, the dispute between the county’s legislative and govt branches may wind up in courtroom, although each Meeting and Fee management have mentioned they wish to keep away from that route.
Princi and Lyons didn’t return calls Monday from the Occasions.
As county officers spar over process, Barnstable County residents are inspired to share their ideas on how ARPA funding may assist Cape Codders.
To submit feedback:
Attain Jeannette Hinkle at