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Bernalillo County plans to spend more than half of its $131.9 million in American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funds on water, sewer and broadband projects in underserved communities.
The County Commission voted 4-0 Tuesday to direct $74.6 million of the federal pandemic relief money to infrastructure. Commissioner Debbie O’Malley was not present.
The allocation includes nearly $54 million for seven projects led by the Albuquerque Bernalillo County Water Utility Authority.
Liz Anderson, the utility’s chief planning officer, said the “meaningful and thoughtful” use of federal funds will move several long-awaited projects to the finish line.
“This will help make sure everybody has a resilient water supply,” Anderson said. “It’s also a significant … investment to maintain and rehab our system.”
An $8 million appropriation will complete the final phases of a South Valley drinking water project that will bring service to several neighborhoods west of Coors Boulevard.
Carnuel, a small East Mountains community, will receive $3.8 million for wastewater collection. “It will be really great to get a lot of people off that septic system,” Anderson said.
Other water authority projects include:
• $15 million to repair water and sewer lines that run through Kirtland Air Force Base
• $15 million for an arsenic treatment plant
• $4.9 million to boost water pressure at Mesa del Sol athletic fields
• $4.2 million for Metropolitan Detention Center sewer system updates
• $2.8 million for a wastewater treatment plant for Albuquerque’s West Side
Most of the water authority projects have been funded in phases by annual allocations from state capital outlay or federal grants.
“It’s important to note that what will come out of this (ARPA) is complete construction projects,” Anderson said.
Congress passed the $1.9 trillion stimulus package in March.
Commissioner Steven Michael Quezada, whose district includes the far South Valley and portions of Downtown, said the funds will “make a huge impact” on local clean drinking water and water conservation.
“We all drive by the Rio Grande now, and look, we have to be realistic about who’s responsible for water, and that’s all of us,” Quezada said.
The commission approved $10.8 million for county-led water and sewer projects.
ARPA funds will help build and improve water and wastewater systems at the South Valley Community Commons, a mixed-use development space at Kirtland, and an arroyo just south of Sandia Pueblo.
Broadband projects will receive $10 million under the county’s ARPA spending plan. The federal money will fund fiber and broadband expansion in the East Mountains and on Albuquerque’s far West Side along the Atrisco Vista Boulevard corridor.
In addition to infrastructure, the county’s ARPA spending plan includes:
• $4.5 million for young adult substance abuse programs and adult behavioral health services
• $7.6 million for the South Valley Economic Development Center, Mesa Del Sol Athletic Fields, Sawmill Center for the Arts, court competency evaluations, a temporary county court facility, rideshare infrastructure and felony pretrial supervision
• $9.5 million for housing initiatives
• $10 million for premium pay for essential county employees
• $18 million for revenue replacement
The county received the first half of the federal money in May 2021. The U.S. Treasury Department will deliver the second allocation in May 2022.
Theresa Davis is a Report for America corps member covering water and the environment for the Albuquerque Journal.