Lake Norman Publications

Road projects top Cornelius ARPA wish list, Smithville not as high

Cornelius residents want ARPA funding to go towards improving congested roads like West Catawba Avenue. /Lee Sullivan

CORNELIUS – The results of a survey gauging interest in how to utilize nearly $9.6 million in one-time federal funding revealed a familiar refrain in town.

Much like in annual budget preparation, Cornelius residents echoed their priorities of road improvements and public safety through a recent two-part survey for the dollars the town has landed from the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA).

The highest-ranking category was road widening and new roads, with 82.2 percent of respondents saying it was an urgent need or extremely important and 12.7 identifying it as somewhat important for a 94.8 overall supportive response. Next was elevating public safety salaries to become competitive with the market. Residents said that’s an urgent need at a 61.5 percent rate, while 31.3 said it was somewhat important.

There were 898 survey responses, which at 3 percent of the town’s population was “a win” for Town Manager Andrew Grant. He noted how some categories are currently being funded with recurring general fund dollars, such as public safety salaries, full-time firefighters and cybersecurity.

Unlike town budget feedback, parks and recreation did not fall as high on ARPA priorities. Expanding existing parks was No. 6 on the list, and at 12 was purchasing land for the future parks.

Also under the public safety umbrella, the third-highest priority was funding the addition of full-time, town employee firefighters. That’s an initiative the town began in the previous fiscal year.

The category that received the most vocal support at town board meetings earlier this year was the Smithville community revitalization. Despite Grant earmarking $3 million of the ARPA funds for the project in the current fiscal year, there were calls for $6 million.

It would fall under “improving quality of life in moderate- to low-income neighborhoods,” which received 68.5 percent positive responses, placing eighth. And among the open-ended comments, 6 percent were in support, while 4.5 percent were not in support.

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