The worst parking lot in Baldwin is going to get repaired thanks to Village Board action last week.

The Village was granted $426,201.35 in American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funds, with half already received and the second half to be received next spring. Those funds must be allocated by Dec. 2024 and spent by Dec. 2026.

A committee was formed to discuss the best options for expenditures of those funds while staying within those guidelines set by the U.S. Treasury Department.

Four park improvements were mentioned with one of them being the resurfacing of the parking lot at Mill Pond Park (i.e., Civic Center).

“That parking lot has been bad since I was playing hockey,” said member Austin Van Someren, with further board members also acknowledging the quality of the lot.

The other park improvements consisted of resurfacing the tennis courts at Mill Pond Park, new playground equipment at Bailey Park and converting a cement slab at Creamery Park to a basketball court. While those items were met with unanimous approval, another one of the committee’s recommendations caused some debate.

The request called for full-time Village employees who worked 2020 and are still employed to receive $4,200 each. In addition, EMS paid-on-call staff, election/poll workers, public works seasonal employees and part-time library staff employees. That amount represents 25% of the total funds.

President Lance Van Damme questioned the $4,200 amount believing the amount was a little high.

Member Kristine Forbes believes that amount wasn’t steep especially with the news 75% of those funds will be going back to the community.

“Everyone got funds out of this,” she said. “You know who didn’t? Public workers.”

Board members asked Administrator/Clerk-Treasurer Tracy Carlson if she heard from other municipalities what they’re doing with their funds.

Carlson’s answer was a surprising take.

“Other Clerks don’t know what to do with these funds,” she explained. “The smaller towns are giving it to other agencies to assist them. Towns don’t have parks, roads, food pantries or water systems.

“There are tons of different ways these funds could be used.”

In addition to the backpay for employees, there was a request from United Fire and Rescue for reimbursement for online training subscriptions.

The final discussed item for ARPA funds was the Food Pantry’s new home.

Danielle Johnson, owner of Homestead Vet Clinic, said talks have started about the Food Pantry moving into her old site on Hwy. 63.

“It’s been for sale for a long time,” she said, noting she declined two offers for it to be torn down. “It would be nice for it to be inhabited.”

Carlson said the Food Pantry is “in kind of a bind” right now. While that building isn’t their most desired choice, it does cross off a lot of their boxes.

“We need to keep the conversations moving forward,” she said.

The backpay for employees and the United Fire and Response request were approved. Approval was also granted for a grant for the food pantry, but the amount to be determined once a lease agreement can be settled.

All four items were presented as one item for approval, which passed 5-2 with Van Damme and Doug Newton voting no.

Other ARPA funds

Carlson stated the committee received a request from the Baldwin Care Center for some of the ARPA funds. Once, they found out the Care Center was a recipient of CARES funds, their request was denied.

Another possibility was signage for Main Street along US Highway 63. That request was tabled for additional information.

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