NCLM Southern City, Volume 72, Issue 3, 2022

SOUTHERN CITY QUARTER 3 2022 16 At the foundation of their efforts is the town’s Capital Improvement Plan, which lays out the town’s needs and direction over the next five years. It was established prior to the passage of the American Rescue Plan. And once that additional financial support became available, it served as a roadmap for Waynesville on how to proceed. “We recognized that this is a windfall,” Hites said, speaking of the strategy pursued by Waynesville’s Mayor and Board of Alderman. “With our plan, we were able to see clearly what needed funding.” Two priorities rose above all others: water infrastructure and government service delivery. Waynesville is presently in the midst of a $25 million water and sewer project, and while the town’s $3.2 million ARP allocation cannot cover the entire investment, it will make headway towards some of that project’s most pressing concerns. And towards the issue of service delivery, Waynesville, like many other local governments around the state and country, has faced challenges in recruiting and retaining employees. To address that concern, the town provided salary increases. Only a short time into that investment, the payoff has already become clear. “We’re so much more competitive in hiring staff. There’s still room to go, but where we used to have eight police officer vacancies, now we have two. It makes a difference for the community.” Other success stories include: Recycling investment: In using ARP funds to upgrade the town’s recycling bins, Waynesville has increased its recycling rate by 65 percent, according to Hites. The upgrades additionally provide for a safer work environment for the sanitation employees. Greenway bridge: Nestled in the heart of the Great Smoky Mountains, Waynesville is one of western North Carolina’s beloved tourist destinations. It’s a core element of the local economy. The town furthered its attractiveness to tourists and residents alike by investing in the construction of a bridge that connects segments of its public greenways. Future flexibility: Despite the array of investment categories pursued by Waynesville, the town was still able to save almost $500,000 in ARP funds for future use. Administration Preparation: The American Rescue Plan monies did not catch Waynesville by surprise. Rather, with a Capital Improvement Plan already in place, town leadership was able to quickly and efficiently invest in the most pressing areas of need. Expediency: Waynesville, just over a year after the passage of ARP and less than a year after first receiving funds, is already making a difference in the community, especially as it relates to one of its biggest concerns: staffing. The town’s upgraded recycling program also serves as an example of the already-achieved impact, as Waynesville’s recycling rates have jumped nearly 65 percent since its ARP investment. MARION MAKES IMPORTANT, ‘ICONIC’ INVESTMENTS Marion, NC Population: 7,853 Funds Received: $1.51 million Plan Decided • Purchased downtown building to become future City Hall – $300,000 à Building is a key downtown landmark, and is the image seen in Marion’s town logo • Employee bonus – $50,000 • Water and Sewer projects – $950,000 Considering • Grant and Project Manager, three-year funding period • Firefighter hiring • Infrastructure: Street projects and street repairs Strategy Marion’s approach is two-pronged: one part acting now, and one part exercising patience. continued from page 15 The American Rescue Plan in Action