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Cheshire County Puts Federal Funds to Work

Published Thursday Feb 3, 2022

Author Judi Currie

Cheshire County Puts Federal Funds to Work

The first half of more than $14 million in American Rescue Plan Act Funding is at work in multiple projects throughout Cheshire County. Chris Coates, Cheshire County administrator, felt the county was in the best position to see where the funding could do the most good in the region and lobbied to receive the federal monies.

The county added a staff position to manage the process, holding weekly meetings with the congressional delegation to understand how the money could be used.

More than $1 million was allocated to the Maplewood Nursing Home reconstruction project, which was hit with pandemic-related delays and increased material costs. The project ran about $1 million over budget. “If you have workers inside, you must build special walls and create negative air exchange to keep them separated from residents and that added to cost and delayed certain aspects,” Coates says.

Another $1 million was distributed among Cheshire County’s towns and the City of Keene for qualifying municipal improvement projects and unplanned COVID-19 costs, easing the burden on local property taxpayers.

“We used the proration in the Department of Revenue Administration formula. The City of Keene got $246,346 and Rindge $87,229 that they weren’t expecting,” says Coates. “We took it to the next level and asked how we can help small businesses and nonprofits right away, many that didn’t qualify for other relief funding.” The county set aside $1 million and awarded grants up to $20,000. “It may not sound like a lot but to a small business, it could mean the difference between staying in business and keeping or letting workers go.”

To support community arts to welcome people back into the county’s public spaces, $6,500 was allocated for a summer concert series. With the help of former Keene State College professor and Emmy-nominated guitarist Jose Lezcano, the series included eight towns and the county hopes to expand next summer to all the towns in Cheshire County, Coates says.

Energy upgrades are planned across all three county campuses—the nursing home, the county jail and the county courthouse—and staff salaries will be increased ensuring no county employee makes less than $15 per hour. “We feel pretty good about it, and along with the help we have provided to small businesses and nonprofits, it has all been very rewarding,” Coates says.

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