Dover hires law firm to oversee its ARPA funds

By Mike Finney
Posted 1/12/22

DOVER — Members of the Dover City Council followed the recommendation of City Solicitor Nicholas Rodriguez and voted for the law firm of Barnes & Thornburg to serve as counsel to Dover when …

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Dover hires law firm to oversee its ARPA funds

Posted

DOVER — Members of the Dover City Council followed the recommendation of City Solicitor Nicholas Rodriguez and voted for the law firm of Barnes & Thornburg to serve as counsel to Dover when it comes to disbursing American Rescue Plan Act funds.

Barnes & Thornburg representatives said the firm will ensure that only organizations that are qualified for ARPA funding will be able to receive a portion of the $6.9 million that the city has been allocated to receive from the federal government.

“The firm is being engaged to assist Dover in connection with the American Rescue Plan Act funds, including applicable uses, advising on potential projects, and reporting and compliance related to the United States Treasury,” Thomas P. McGonigle, an attorney with Barnes & Thornburg, wrote in a letter to the city of Dover.

“Although I will be the lawyer responsible for the matter, other lawyers and legal assistants at the firm will assist me, depending upon their expertise and experience. My responsibilities include selecting personnel to provide services consistent with Dover’s expectations.”

The city of Dover will pay Barnes & Thornburg a fixed monthly fee of $3,500. The city can use its ARPA funds to receive legal services related to the utilization of those funds.

“It’s so complicated to figure out how the funds can be expended,” Mr. Rodriguez said. “The Treasury Department regulates this and there are a lot of questions that are not answered. That will continue throughout.

“This law firm will represent the city in keeping us straight all the time about the expenditures, what can be recognized and spent and what cannot be. I think it’s absolutely essential to have them.

“If we had to have somebody from the city to do this … it would be difficult.”

Dover City Council members have put forth a wide array of ideas for ways to spend the nearly $7 million the city will receive, such as a riverwalk along the St. Jones River, a shelter for unhoused people or funding more mental health counselors to work alongside the Dover Police Department.

All of these ideas might not qualify to receive ARPA funding, which is why Dover hired the law firm to represent them.

“I think it’s important for the public to understand that this is the city doing its due diligence because they’re going to be looking (and making sure) that every i gets dotted and t gets crossed to make sure that the monies that we are appropriating do not come back to bite us,” City Councilman Fred Neil said.

“I think it’s important because we’re receiving many requests at this time, and we want to make sure that those people are appropriate and that they do get the help that they are requesting for, and those that do not and are not entitled to that money do not get some.”

Dover’s $6.9 million ARPA sum has been a point of contention for the state capital, as Newark will receive $17.1 million, and Middletown will receive $11.5 million despite having lower population totals.

The 2019 U.S. Census puts Dover’s population at 36,166, Newark’s at 33,515 and Middletown’s at 18,896.

The amount of money each city or town gets is based on a formula used to determine Community Development Block Grant funding — a U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development program that finances community growth. County aid, in comparison, is decided by population totals.

Councilman David Anderson also supported hiring a law firm to oversee Dover’s ARPA funding requests.

“I definitely support the recommendation,” he said. “The firm has extensive experience at the state level and has taken care of almost every municipality in the state.”