By Linda Dillman
The Madison Township Trustees are taking action to get their piece of $1.9 trillion in federal money that is aiding the country’s recovery from COVID-19 and the virus’ impact on the economy and public health.
The American Rescue Plan (ARP) emergency legislative package provides resources needed to address the ongoing COVID-19 crisis and spur economic recovery. It was signed into law by President Joe Biden on March 11.
At their Sept. 14 meeting, the trustees approved the creation of an American Rescue Plan fund to receive federal dollars.
“The initial information was received the end of April 2021,” said Madison Township Administrator Susan Brobst. “However, in May it was determined that all township eligibility status for direct ARP funds was yet to be determined and was sent to the state legislature to decide. The township received information in June 2021 after the passage of Senate Bill 111, which provided the amendment that allowed townships to be included in the distribution to non-entitlement units of local government.”
Madison Township Fiscal Officer Laurie Vermeer submitted the application at the end of August.
Brobst said there are 1,308 townships in Ohio, three of which are large enough to be directly included in the ARP funding, leaving the remaining 1305 townships left hanging to know if they would receive any funds.
“Not all states have townships, so the language used in the original bill unintentionally created the issue,” said Brobst.
While Brobst said the final amount of funding is yet to be determined—the deadline to apply for funds was extended—information initially received by the township indicated a potential maximum of $1.2 million payable in two installments.
The act provides resources to protect the jobs and health of first responders and other essential front-line workers, including testing, contact tracing, and mitigation and purchasing personal protective equipment.
The national vaccination program and complementary measures to combat the coronavirus—including scaling up testing and tracing, addressing shortages of personal protective equipment and other critical supplies—are also part of the American Rescue Plan Act.
“At this point, we do not know how or what any of the funds will be used for, as we have not discussed any potential projects with the board or staff,” said Brobst. “We have received preliminary information on initial categories and some guidance. However, we are still waiting on more specific clarification/guidance which is coming from various agencies. As of now, our plan is to watch as additional information becomes available, discuss with department heads later this year, and present recommendations to the board which will then be discussed at the end of 2021 and the first quarter of 2022. We also have to keep in mind, these funds can be used over multiple years.”
ARP Funds must be dedicated to specific uses by Dec. 31, 2024. The encumbered funds must be paid out, purchases received, and projects completed by Dec. 31, 2026. Any money that is left over after the deadlines must be returned to the U.S. Treasury.
Problems in Brobst Park
Township officials said irresponsible residents and visitors to Madison Township’s Brobst Park are creating problems by leaving trash in their wake.
Brobst said thrash is not being picked up throughout the park and incidents of discarded alcoholic containers are on the rise.
“This is the first time we’re having a consistent problem with alcohol throughout the park,” said Brobst. “We’re finding bottles.”
Workers put up additional signage reminding park visitors of the rules, but Brobst said they are being ignored. She said action is needed to curb the problem of trash littering the park grounds and alcoholic beverage consumption within its confines.
She suggested closing the gates to the park before dusk and leaving restrooms locked, unless ball games are being played. The two shelter houses are available by reservation only, but there is no charge.
“We’re going to get a quote for a camera system and see if it’s something we could possibly do,” said Brobst, who said measures might include charging rent for the use of the shelter houses, which she said are as busy now as they were before the pandemic.
“We are hearing throughout the county people are having more problems with trash (in parks). We definitely are interested in suggestions from anyone,” said Brobst
Trustee Michele Reynolds suggested the township collect a refundable deposit for use of the shelter houses and taking before and after pictures when they are reserved.
Other township news
Madison Township Fire Department Battalion Chief Mark Ballenger was presented a 25-year service award by Fire Chief Derek Robinson and Madison Township Police Officer Angie Gamblin was promoted to sergeant.
In June 2018, Gamblin was the first female officer hired by the township after graduating from the Eastland Career Center law enforcement academy in April 2018.
“This is absolutely one of my proudest moments,” said Madison Township Police Chief Gary York. “She was our first female officer, our first female supervisor, and now our first female sergeant. We’re proud of her.”