WOONSOCKET – The city of Woonsocket has started spending its approximately $36.4 million in American Rescue Plan Act funds, announcing two new spending initiatives in recent weeks.
The first, announced by Mayor Lisa Baldelli-Hunt last week, is the refurbishing and painting of the city’s 1,952 fire hydrants. The project is expected to cost $541,000 and be complete within two years.
“Remediating and painting our fire hydrants will not only better protect the public but will improve the quality of life in our city,” Baldelli-Hunt said in a press release. Paul Luba, the city’s ARPA administrator, has previously noted the hydrants contain lead paint.
The second initiative, approved by the City Council this week, is the repair of hundreds of sidewalks lining streets around the city. As Public Works Director Steven D’Agostino explained to the council, the project will focus on spot repairs rather than full replacement.
“As you know, there are over 600 roads in Woonsocket, and most of them, each side is a sidewalk. So as you can well imagine, there are numerous areas where you don’t need complete sidewalks, you need spot panels,” he said.
The project does not yet have a full budget, but D’Agostino told The Breeze he anticipates the city could spend up to $1 million on sidewalk repairs. He said he intends to request as much funding for the project as possible from Mayor Lisa Baldelli-Hunt.
“The primaries are our concern. All of our main streets,” he said, naming South Main Street, Providence Street and Hamlet Avenue among the city’s major thoroughfares.
For now, the City Council has approved a contract of up to $25,000 with RICON Construction of Cranston to complete the repairs. Councilors said they would approve more funding after an anticipated ARPA budget meeting next week.
The two projects are the first spending initiatives to draw from an award that was among the largest in the state. ARPA policies mandate that the funds are spent on public health, infrastructure, essential worker pay or alleviating the negative effects of COVID-19.
On Monday, members of the City Council continued to call for a draft budget proposal for how the city plans to spend all of its ARPA funds. Councilor John Ward, who serves as a finance director in the town of Lincoln, emphasized the city should be keeping track of its spending and categorizing it according to the ARPA guidelines.
“Despite what many people may think, $36 million is going to go fast,” he said.
Councilor James Cournoyer said council members anticipate discussing the ARPA budget with the administration during a special meeting next week.