‘Left over’ ARPA money could fund additional water, sewer projects in Fremont County

The local grant requests that were denied this year through Wyoming’s new American Rescue Plan Act water and sewer program may still have hope for funding.

The Wyoming Legislature’s Select Water Committee voted this month to infuse the program with an additional $35 million in ARPA money next year.

That amount should cover the grant requests that received 14 points or more on the scoring chart used to rank program applications this year, Wyoming Rep. Evan Simpson, R-Afton, said.

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‘Hold tight’

Dubois’ request for $1.97 million for water and storm sewer improvements on Meckem Street would be included on that 14-points-plus list, but the grant applications that came in from Shoshoni and Lander all scored 13 points or lower.

Despite the lower ranking, however, Lander public works director Lance Hopkin said state officials “told us to hold tight for now.”

The legislature may decide to put even more money into the grant program during next year’s session, Hopkin explained.

“So we’re not giving up,” he told the Lander City Council during a regular meeting Monday. “We’re optimistic that maybe one or two of those projects might be coming our way.”

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ARPA leftovers

The state set aside $71 million in ARPA money for use in the event of another COVID-19 emergency that “fortunately … hasn’t happened,” Simpson told the Select Water Committee this month.

Wyoming Gov. Mark Gordon also has about $54 million in ARPA money reserved in a savings account the legislature “gave to him in case he had emergencies,” Simpson said – and “very little of that has been spent.”

“So we’ve got … roughly $125 million of ARPA funds left over,” Simpson said. “And there’s going to be lots of requests, lots of programs to beef up, lots of new broadband to go all kinds of places. … But our philosophy last year was, why not water and wastewater? Let’s go for infrastructure.”

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There were 113 grant applications to the ARPA water and sewer program totaling $225.5 million in requests this year, Simpson said, but he estimated that there are probably “five times more that (amount in) needs in our communities that simply didn’t make the list and didn’t get applications in.”

“To satisfy infrastructure needs in our communities has to take a high priority,” Simpson said. “(Let’s try) picking up a little more of that ARPA money and spreading it into our communities the best we can.”

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