Marion County has federal funding on standby for infrastructure improvements, homeless services

Thousands of Marion County residents will see improved water, wastewater and sewage infrastructure in the coming years as the county spends millions in federal Covid relief funds.

The Marion County Board of Commissioners has also set aside $3 million to fund a long-awaited navigation center in Salem, where homeless people can get help to move into permanent housing. The federal money is one of the major funding sources for the project, which is expected to open around February 2023.

As of Monday, the county had spent 8% of its federal Covid relief dollars reserved for public agencies and organizations as county officials wait for them to complete local projects and seek reimbursement through grants. But county commissioners have allocated their full $67.6 million to dozens of government and nonprofit projects across Marion County.

The county has until the end of 2026 to spend the funding, approved for efforts to improve water and sewage systems, broadband internet and homeless services.

Marion County had spent about $5.1 million as of Monday, according to county data

Nearly all approved recipients must request reimbursement from the county, while funding was provided upfront for a limited few projects, said county spokesman Jon Heynen. The Marion County Board of Commissioners reviewed applications with the county’s finance department before determining where they would allocate the federal dollars.  

The bulk of the funding, about 39%, was slated for water, sewer and broadband infrastructure, while the second-largest portion, about 26%, went to government services.

The American Rescue Plan Act, a $1.9 trillion economic stimulus bill signed by President Joe Biden in March 2021, was intended to help state, local and tribal governments pay for efforts to recover their communities from Covid.

Marion County began receiving the federal funding this March, Heynen said.

The largest share of federal Covid relief funding the county set aside was about $12.1 million for “government services,” the dashboard showed. That includes $3.6 million for a new software system with improved cybersecurity and $2.6 million for contingency funds in case of unexpected costs. The county had spent about $737,000 of that money as of Monday.

County commissioners allocated about $9.85 million to the county’s public works department for building a new well-based water supply, storage and distribution system in Brooks Community Service District. Another $5 million the county allocated would help expand the Brooks district’s existing sewer plant. The county has spent about $5,000 on those projects, data showed.

Commissioners also approved $9 million for Marion County Public Works to build a public safety radio system and broadband network to serve the Marion County Sheriff’s Office, eight city police agencies, 19 fire districts, two rural ambulance districts and the county’s rural 911 call center. The county has spent about $73,000 of that funding.

The county had about $3.4 million available for administrative costs of managing its federal Covid relief funding, of which it has spent $136,000. The county has spent its full $2.8 million for one-time pandemic relief pay to county employees for work done during the pandemic.

The board approved $3 million for a navigation center in Salem that will help move homeless people into permanent housing, of which it has spent $300,000.

The county has spent $1,000 of its $3 million available for excavation at the Detroit Lake Reservoir, intended to extend its use season.

Commissioners set aside $2 million for the city of Keizer to build two all-weather athletic fields at Keizer Rapids Park.

More than a dozen cities can request federal funding from Marion County upon completing specific water and sewer system projects. 

The county approved $1 million each to the cities of Gates, Hubbard, St. Paul and Sublimity for water system improvements, Aumsville for its wastewater treatment system, Aurora for replacing downtown water lines, Donald for installing new drinking wells and improving its water treatment plant, Gervais for upgrading its wastewater pump station, Mill City for sewer improvements and St. Paul for a new water storage system.

The board allocated $1 million to the county’s public works department for reopening Stayton’s Wilderness Park and building a pedestrian bridge linking it to Stayton Riverfront Park.

They approved another $1 million for realigning and paving Northeast Le Brun Road and Railroad Crossing near Woodburn.

The county allocated $450,000 to the city of Jefferson for improving its water treatment plant, $450,000 to Mt. Angel for upsizing its sanitary sewer trunk line, $500,000 to Stayton for building a sewer pipe on Ida Street, and $650,000 to Turner for building a water booster pump station and upsizing storm drains.

Commissioners have also also approved the following ARPA allocations, according to county data:

  • Marion County Public Works Department: $600,000 for the Fargo Service District’s portion of the city of Donald’s wastewater treatment plant expansion project.
  • Marion County Health and Human Services: $500,000 for Our Place, a transitional living program that will provide childcare and addiction treatment for parents with substance abuse disorders, helping them with long-term recovery and reuniting with their children.
  • Marion County: $790,000 for costs related to isolation and quarantine due to Covid in the 2021-22 fiscal year (fully spent).
  • Marion Polk Food Share: $750,000 for rebuilding the AWARE Food Bank in downtown Woodburn, which was destroyed in a fire in August 2021.
  • Marion County Public Works Department: $365,000 for a-6 acre undeveloped site to create Parkdale Park in the Hayesville area.
  • Hope Pregnancy Clinic: $285,000 to reimburse building costs for the Parenting Initiative Annex to address “space limitations” that arose due to Covid (fully spent).
  • City of Silverton: $250,000 for buying a building to operate as a resource center to help homeless people work toward permanent housing.
  • Catholic Community Services: $250,000 for renovating its Bishop Steiner Building on Northeast Portland Road. 
  • Liberty House: $250,000 for medical services to address increased child maltreatment during the pandemic.
  • The Salvation Army Kroc Center: $125,000 for offsetting losses in April 2020 due to the Covid shutdown and loss of membership revenue.
  • Family YMCA of Marion and Polk Counties: $125,000 for reimbursing costs of staffing, youth sports and rent for school sites from September 2021 through May 2022.
  • St. Paul Fire District: $86,500 for its fuel management depot for emergency vehicles.

Contact reporter Ardeshir Tabrizian: [email protected] or 503-929-3053.

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Ardeshir Tabrizian has covered criminal justice and housing for Salem Reporter since September 2021. As an Oregon native, his award-winning watchdog journalism has traversed the state. He has done reporting for The Oregonian, Eugene Weekly and Malheur Enterprise.