BRUNSWICK COUNTY — Parks across Brunswick County that were heavily used during the early, isolated days of the Covid-19 pandemic could soon undergo makeovers with the help of federal relief money.
The Brunswick County Board of Commissioners is set to appropriate $2 million of its $26-million allocation from the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) for enhancements to several parks during its meeting Monday afternoon.
The pot of cash will be split, with $855,000 going toward improvements at Shallotte District Park; $302,000 for Cedar Grove Park; $107,000 for Lockwood Folly Park; $243,000 for Northwest District Park; $148,000 for Leland Community Park and $345,000 for Navassa Township District Park.
All six parks slated for upgrades are either located in or serve one of the county’s four U.S. Census Bureau-identified Qualified Census Tracts, in which at least 50% of households live off an income below 60% of the area median income.
The U.S. Treasury’s guidance for spending ARPA funds requires counties to show the connection between the expense and the response to the pandemic. It also emphasizes funding should be used to aid economically distressed populations.
Brunswick County is justifying spending the money on the parks by stating the projects will “promote community and individual health, wellness, and physical activity in underserved areas” and improve access to the “facilities and programs that may be beneficial during pandemic restrictions.”
“One of the most popular choices for County residents and visitors during the pandemic was to visit our parks to find avenues for socially distanced physical activity for themselves, their families, and their pets,” according to the funding request to commissioners.
The list of items that would be addressed with the money includes:
- Repair and/or replace aging playground equipment and sport court surfaces
- Improve and/or add amenities within the parks
- Repair and/or replace aging and obsolete scoreboards
- Fence and park entrance repairs and security access improvements
- Repair and/or replace aging park and wayfinding/directional signage
- Repair and/or replace broken, obsolete or missing pedestrian, security and ballfield lighting
- Address patron safety issues including ADA access issues, trip hazards, ball net replacement, and fence replacement or removal
- Repair aging buildings and facilities to protect and improve the lifespan of facilities, including welding repairs to rusted structural support beams, siding repair/replacement, roof repair and replacement, plumbing upgrades, painting, and in some instances, the complete removal of facilities due to significant deterioration and safety concerns
- Asphalt repair to parking lots, concrete repair and replacement for sidewalks and other access pathways
Though the $2 million may not cover all of the desired upgrades to the parks, it would go “a long way towards addressing the long-term needs,” according to the county. The items will be prioritized based on the demand and impact each would have.
By using ARPA funds, the county can avoid dipping into its general fund budget for the maintenance of the parks. It will also free up $503,000 the county had budgeted for a new playground at Cedar Grove Park and for improvements to asphalt, lighting and the gazebo at Shallotte Park.
The county commissioners approved a draft spending strategy for its ARPA allocation in early September. Approximately $6.2 million is deemed to go toward “community investments,” which includes the capital parks projects, as well as small business grants, nonprofit assistance, a housing and weatherization program, a mental health grant program, the implementation of a lead and copper remediation program, enhancements to library services, and improvements to the Brunswick Community College parking lot that is being used as a mass vaccination site.
Also in the framework is $3.8 million for health and human services capital construction costs, IT developments, installation of an air purification system in county buildings, essential workers compensation and personal protective equipment.
Around $13.5 million will bankroll water and sewer projects; $1.3 million will cover the administrative or reporting expenses associated with meeting federal regulations of the funding; and $2.7 million is being reserved for future needs.
Brunswick County has already accepted $13.8 million of its $27.6-million allocation. All funds must be committed by December 2024 and exhausted by December 2026.
The commissioners meet at 3 p.m. Monday. The public may attend in person in the David R. Sandifer Administration Building, located at 30 Government Center Dr. in Bolivia.
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