Oct. 16—There have been a lot of requests from agencies all over the state of North Dakota for the more than $1 billion available in the American Rescue Plan Act, according to Rep. Chet Pollert, R-Carrington, and House majority leader.
ARPA is part of the effort by the federal government to provide assistance for recovery from the economic issues associated with the coronavirus pandemic.
"About $8 or $9 billion in requests," he said. "We wanted to make sure all proposals got in there."
Pollert said there are duplications of requests and some items were even submitted in triplicate. House and Senate Interim Appropriations Committees heard comments on the requests Wednesday and Thursday this week and will hold additional hearings Oct. 19 and 20 next week.
Pollert said the decision-making process will come during hearings tentatively scheduled for Oct. 26 and 27.
The city of Jamestown submitted the request for the ARPA funds, according to Dwaine Heinrich, Jamestown mayor.
"We became aware the Legislature was looking for requests," he said. "We worked with the city engineer to list some of the needs of the city."
The list submitted to the Legislature included 14 projects totaling $39.9 million.
"It is definitely a wish-and-needs list," Heinrich said. "We could have asked for much more."
The list includes water and wastewater projects. The largest of the water projects is $5 million for an additional waterline from the treatment plant to northeast Jamestown to improve water supply and pressure. The largest wastewater project is $11 million to rehabilitate the 1997 wastewater treatment facility.
"It is important to let them know we have large needs," Heinrich said. "All of these projects will be paid by the taxpayer if not approved for this funding."
Pollert said there were requests from a number of cities in North Dakota.
"We've consistently worked on water projects in the past," he said. "There is still more to be done. From all the towns bringing forth wastewater projects, we have some problems there."
Another request for ARPA money out of Jamestown came from the North Dakota State Hospital.
Rosalie Etherington, superintendent of the State Hospital, requested $350,000 for retention bonuses for certified nursing assistants. She noted increasing pay for similar positions in the private sector was making it difficult to retain staff.
Other requests that would have regional impacts included several funding requests for additional funding for township and county roads and a $200 million request put forth by Sen. Joan Heckaman, D-New Rockford, to provide additional support for child care operators of $1,400 per year per child for the next three years.
Rep. Jeff Magrum, R-Hazelton, made a request for a grant of $1,293.17 for every "man, woman and child" in North Dakota. That request alone totaled more than $1 billion.
Pollert said the highest priority is a funding package of $466 million for the North Dakota Department of Transportation.
"That needs to get done," he said. "The DOT funding needs to happen, and we should take a look at the natural gas pipeline."
The natural gas pipeline would run from west to east across North Dakota and has a $100 million cost estimate.
Other priorities could include higher education and the North Dakota Department of Commerce's efforts to recruit new people to live and work in North Dakota.
Pollert said there really is just one hard and fast rule to this process.
"We don't want to fund things that are an ongoing expense," he said. "We've got to filter out what's most important and fund it on a one-time basis."