Cumberland Notebook: Supervisors make decision on ARPA funds

Published 2:56 am Thursday, December 1, 2022

CUMBERLAND – What should the remaining funds from the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) be used for? That’s the question Cumberland County supervisors will answer in the coming months.

Overall, Cumberland received $1.929 million from ARPA, with the county receiving all that money over the last two fiscal years. As of this week, the county has $1,644,390.49 left to spend.

To do that, however, supervisors first have to roll the money over, making it available for the current year’s budget. That’s what they did during the Tuesday, Nov. 15 meeting, after first holding a public hearing.

No one spoke at the hearing and the funds were unanimously approved for appropriation.

“I want to complement the staff,” said Chairman Brian Stanley. “In using these funds it again has gone to our auditor and everything we did was appropriate and was in approved categories and uses. So, thank you again for all your hard work.”

Now to be clear, ARPA funds do come with some restrictions. They can’t be used for just anything. The federal guidelines say ARPA money can be spent on “investments in water, sewer and broadband infrastructure,” as well as general economic recovery or any project providing “economic assistance to small businesses, households, and hard-hit industries.”

Supervisors will vote in future meetings on how to use these funds this fiscal year.

Local students, schools honored

Also at the Nov. 15 meeting, supervisors heard from officials with the school district.

Dr. Elizabeth Jamerson, the district’s assistant superintendent of human resources, said Cumberland schools had many things to celebrate as individual students, alumni, faculty and student groups have been recognized for great achievements.

Students have done a great job representing Cumberland as they have won recognition on numerous fronts, Jamerson said.  A Southside Governor’s School student, Taylor Hughes, designed a new logo for the Governor’s School. Meanwhile, senior Cheyenne Crenshaw was featured in the Hampton University Homecoming parade as an incoming freshman. At the Virginia High School League Theater 1B Regional One Act Festival, along with the team winning third place, Quinn Kukk was recognized as outstanding actor.

Other school organizations recognized for accomplishments were the high school marching band, Future Farmers of America, the High School cross country team, the high school volleyball team and the robotics team.

“The students are doing very well,” said Jamerson.

The faculty has also made some accomplishments as Virginia Gills, principal of Cumberland Elementary School, was named Virginia Association of School Librarians Administrator of the Year. Parrish Mort, the library media specialist at Cumberland Elementary School, was also recognized by the Virginia Association of School Librarians and was named the Dickenson Scholarship recipient.

Changes and improvements are currently taking place to better the schools, Jamerson added. The school nutrition department attended the Department of Education Farm to School conference to see opportunities to get locally grown produce served in the cafeteria. The outdoor seating at the athletic complex is almost finished, after almost 20 years of waiting. The demolition of the old pod units recently took place and a fifth-grade playground will be built.

Lessons from the Library

According to Lisa Davis, the Cumberland County Public Library has some new updates to better serve the area, as she told supervisors.

Now with an extra employee, the library is able to be open on a regular schedule for folks who need to come. The new privacy pod is open for reservations for those who need to have private virtual appointments. There are also COVID-19 testing kits still available for one per person for those who need one.

The library has replaced all four HVAC units, so there is now heat in the whole building. Davis can even control it from an app on her phone to make sure everything is working right. The next step will be changing all the fluorescent lights to LEDs.

“I’m looking at some other grants to bring some more programs and some more building updates,” said Davis. “So we will see how that goes.”

Library events are in full swing as they gave out 425 brand-new children’s books at Trunk or Treat. The library is currently hosting a bingo game for Native American Heritage Month with clues posted daily on its Facebook page. The year-long reading challenge will soon come to a close to award the winner with a $50 Amazon gift card. Davis is excited about next year’s challenge as it will have more categories to choose from.

Classes and groups are still going strong with the knitting and crocheting group and there are plans to host more events in the coming year, including a genealogy class, a grant writing class, a financial management class, an adult craft class and a midday matinee.

 

To read the next story, click here.