By Jeff Harrison
Midwest City Beacon
Midwest City is making headway on several projects that are funded through the American Rescue Plan Act.
But there’s plenty of work left to do.
The city received $9.8 million in ARPA funds. The bulk of that funding is being used for sewer and water line projects on the north side. The city also used the money for ADA upgrades to City Hall and improvements to the new multi-purpose athletic complex.
So far, Midwest City has spent or allocated $6.3 million of the ARPA funds. The funds must be allocated by 2024 and spent by 2026.
ARPA was passed by Congress in March 2021 to aid in the economic recovery and emergency response to COVID-19.
The federal government dictates how the city can use the monies, but the guidelines are broad. According to the U.S. Treasury Department website, ARPA funds can be used for public health expenditures; to address negative economic impacts caused by the pandemic; to replace lost public sector revenue; to provide premium pay for essential workers; or by investing in water, sewer and broadband infrastructure.
Midwest City is using the ARPA funds for eight projects.
Council Chamber Renovation
The city council chamber project focused on making the building ADA accessible. The project also included new carpet, lighting, audio/visual and upgrades to make it more multi-functional.
“It’s not solely for council meetings,” said Brandon Bundy, Director of Engineering and Construction Services. “The seating is flexible, and we can use it for staff meetings and conferences.”
Bundy said the need for more flexible spaces was realized during COVID.
The project is nearly complete. Bundy said they are still working on some issues with the audio system, which he hopes to complete within the next few months.
City council chamber renovations cost $567,244. That includes $515,814 in ARPA funds and $51,430 from the city budget.
City Hall Renovation/Restroom
As part of the city hall project, the city has also renovated the restrooms at the municipal court and the basement of city hall. The emergency dispatch and emergency command center are in the basement.
The city hall renovation and restroom project are estimated to cost $509,786. That includes $334,186 in ARPA funds and $175,600 from city funds.
Multi-Purpose Sports Complex
The Multi-Athletic Complex is undergoing phase two. The project includes additional parking, a maintenance facility and concession stand. The $ 2 million project is funded almost entirely by ARPA dollars.
Horizontal Water Well
The city is installing a horizontal water well near Country Estates Elementary School. The project has been awarded but work has not yet started.
The $2,990,000 project is funded largely by ARPA money. The city will contribute $250,000 towards the project.
Sooner Rose Sewer Line
The city plans to replace sewer lines and remove a lift station near the Rose State College campus. The current lines were built in the city’s early days to accommodate residential neighborhoods. An old sewer plant was also located in the area and replaced by the current facility on NE 36th St. The area was later redeveloped, and Interstate 40 was constructed.
“All that infrastructure was built for housing and not hotels, apartments, restaurants and car washes that are there now,” Bundy said. “It’s all to accommodate growth that was not originally intended when that sewer system was built.”
Development of the Sooner Rose Shopping Center and Warren Theatre has compounded the problem.
The project is currently in the engineering and design phase. The city will need to acquire easements before construction can begin.
NE 23rd St. Sewer
One of the last projects on the list is adding a sewer line along NE 23rd, between N. Midwest Blvd. to west of Spencer Rd. The area currently has water but not sewer, which has hampered development. The properties now rely on septic systems.
“It is handcuffing them and there will be some development there once we get a sewer line in,” Lyon said.
The addition of sewer lines will allow for smaller lots and commercial development, said economic development director Robert Coleman.
“There are plenty of redevelopment opportunities along a highway that has 22,000 cars a day going down it,” he said.
Midwest City plans use $550,000 in ARPA funds and $150,000 in city funds for the project. Lyon said they will need support from private businesses to help fully develop the project.
“Businesses will come in and use over time will pay for part of the infrastructure,” Lyon said.
Bundy said they are working on engineering for the project. They will extend a line from the Soldier Creek Industrial Park to connect the line. He expects the city will approve an engineering contract in the fall.
NE 36th St. Sewer and Water Lines
The city is extending water and sewer lines along NE 36th St. as part of the Centrillium Proteins development. The meat processing company is planning to build a new facility in Midwest City. The city is using Tax Increment Financing to fund infrastructure improvements. The city will be reimbursed for those costs by future tax revenue created by the new development.
The sewer line portion will be put out for bid in the coming months. The water line portion will be delayed as the city seeks additional funding.
The city has $3 million budgeted for the project with $1 million in ARPA funds and $2 million in city funds.
Health Benefit Plan
Midwest City added $500,000 in ARPA funds to the health benefits plan for COVID related illnesses. Lyon said the ARPA money was used to offset costs incurred to the health benefits plan from COVID related illnesses. It included COVID testing, general treatment, office visits and hospital inpatient treatment.
City officials say they have not been able to stretch the ARPA funds as far as they hoped. Lyon said the NE 36th sewer and water project will cost about $2.5 million more than expected. Project delays and risings costs for materials and labor have added to the prices. The city is also competing against other municipalities that are working on similar projects.
“These projects are coming in way over what the engineers projected,” Lyon said.
Coleman said the city hopes to recover its investment in the NE 36th St. project through the Tax Increment Finance district, which will include Centrillium.
City leaders said they have made a few changes to the scope of the projects but have had to dig deeper into city coffers to make them happen.
“We change a material here and a spec there, but we still need to run sewer and water,” Bundy said.