Somerset competes for third round of CARES Act funding

Jul. 19—SOMERSET — With a need for millions of dollars to fund water quality improvements and streetscape projects, the Somerset County Redevelopment Authority is competing for a round of grants available through the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act.

"This is our best opportunity to get millions of dollars for projects," Redevelopment Authority Executive Director Steven Spochart said.

A total of $54 million is set to be distributed competitively across Pennsylvania in the third and final round of Community Development Block Grants supplemented by the CARES Act of 2020.

Applications are due Aug. 1, Spochart said Tuesday, during the Somerset County Commissioners' meeting at the Center Avenue county office building.

Spochart presented applications for three projects:

—$1.4 million for a waterline improvement project in the village of Draketown;

—$2 million for the Garret Borough walker Street improvement plan;and

—$1.8 million for the Hooversville Borough waterline and tank replacement project.

The commissioners unanimously approved all three applications.

Spochard said there are water quality and streetscape improvements to be made in Rockwood Borough, too.

However, Rockwood's household income surveys required for the application process were not returned in time to meet the deadline, Spochart said. Applications are only accepted from low- to moderate-income areas.

"That's heartbreaking," Commissioner Pamela Tokar-Ickes said. "That (survey) is the only thing standing in the way of the application."

Commissioner Colleen Dawson said the county wants to take advantage of federal grant money, and those income surveys sent by the redevelopment authority are critical.

"I can't stress enough the importance of getting surveys back to the redevelopment authority," she said. "Residents can rest assured their information is safe, and you can see there are millions of dollars available, so if we don't apply for them, then someone else will.

"Those surveys are critical. Without them, applications can't move forward."

Efforts have been ongoing to fund each of the three projects that were approved Tuesday for CARES Act grant applications.

The redevelopment authority has already sought bids for the Draketown waterline improvement project, but the county has insufficient funding as a result of increases in material costs and fuel, Spochart said.

If the county's grant application for Garret Borough street improvements is accepted, then it would build on the previously awarded $860,000 Transportation Alternatives Set-Aside fund to improve Jackson and Walker streets.

The Redevelopment Authority is looking to expand the streetscape along the entire stretch of Walker Street to make a connection from the intersection of Jackson and Walker streets to the September 11 National Memorial Trailhead, Spochart said.

The Hooversville Borough waterline and tank replacement project includes a 250,000-gallon water tank and about 4,000 linear feet of waterline replacement along Main and Lohr streets and Maple Avenue. That work would expand improvements already underway with the borough's $4.6 million in PennVest funds.