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MANCHESTER — To help them decide the best use of the town’s $1.1 million in federal pandemic money, part of the American Rescue Plan Act’s $1.9 trillion stimulus package, the Manchester Select Board is launching a website and online application to identify potential needs for the funds.

Town Manager John O’Keefe said the town received a first payment of $526,173 in May, with a second payment of the same amount due in this coming May.

Northshire Day School Executive Director Laurie Metcalfe on Tuesday made an impassioned plea for help from the board, detailing the struggles the school has had in staying open and staffed while faced with monumental challenges.

“At a time when many programs across our state closed their doors and never reopened, NDS stayed the course,” Metcalf said. “NDS is the only program that stayed open during essential childcare in the Northshire region.”

Metcalfe said the financial strains have been hard.

“There was a time early on in the pandemic that I had no idea how I was going to make payroll the following week,” she told the board. “We were so fortunate that we could receive a Paycheck Protection Plan loan just in time to ensure our employees could be paid.”

Metcalfe said NDS not only persevered but expanded to meet the need.

“We continued to not only deliver the program that families depend on, we expanded our program by adding an additional preschool classroom in our multi-use space so we could serve more families during this complex time.”

They have been unable to replace those who left and entered the school year five teachers short.

Now, with the Delta variant, the school is again in prevention mode.

Metcalfe said the facility serves 85 families but has 100 families on the waiting list.

“Here is the absolute truth — without our 30 teachers and staff, our doors would close,” she said.

She said they are “ever mindful of the economic repercussions on our community should our families not be able to go to work. We don’t have the option of closing early or not opening on a specific day due to a staffing shortage. The ripple effect of doing so would be devastating.”

Metcalf told the board that being a nonprofit, funds are limited and the operational deficit is large.

“This year’s deficit is currently projected at $230,000,” Metcalf said.

In asking the board to approve $50,000, Metcalf asked for support that they’ve been giving the community.

“The work of our teachers and staff at Northshire Day School is precious and valuable,” she said. “This work only continues to happen each day because of those employees who said no to staying safe at home, no to better hours and wages they could find at other local businesses, and no to leaving when things get difficult and challenging. Instead, they said yes to the children, the families and our community. Will you please say yes to Northshire Day School?”

The plea was impactful and board member Heidi Chamberlain enquired whether the board could just approve the request.

But the board decided to make the request part of what they wanted others to do as well: Make requests for help.

They did choose to award funds soon from the original disbursement, with more coming later.

“We’re looking at more short-term, urgent projects,” O’Keefe said. “This one is a little more urgent.”

O’Keefe said a website has been set up that should be live as of Thursday with information about the program, and will contain a link to a survey that will allow requests for help to be made.

That website will be found at a link off the town website at: www.manchester-vt.gov/Arpa-funds.

In the survey, people will be asked for some basic information, including which of five categories they are making their request under.

Funding for the program is tightly controlled and only available to be used for certain programs.

“We tried to keep the survey pretty simple,” O’Keefe said.

The deadline to receive proposals is Nov. 15, and the board will be meeting Nov. 16 to consider the applications.

The tight timeframe is to accommodate businesses and organizations that are in desperate need of help.

Those requests that are not funded in Round 1 will be considered again in Round 2, O’Keefe said.

The board has also already spent some of the money on projects that were timely or already completed or underway.

There was a $100,000 disbursement to put together a plan for a proposed use of town-owned properties on Depot Street. Nothing has been decided yet, but the town is considering the potential of a commercial and private mix with up to 40 residential units in the rear offering mixed-income housing opportunities.

The board also approved $60,000 to design a sewer extension on Route 7A from the library to Riley Rink. If that project goes through, the sewer would not only take many users off septic, but potentially open the door to more affordable housing opportunities in that area.

The final $20,000 disbursement was to help pay for the helicopter landing pad at the Public Safety Building.

Contact Darren Marcy at dmarcy@manchesterjournal.com or by cell at 802-681-6534.


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