Aroostook hires Fort Kent CEO to manage $13 million in American Rescue Plan funds
FORT KENT, Maine — Aroostook County has hired Fort Kent Code Enforcement Officer Steve Pelletier to manage the county’s more than $13 million of American Rescue Plan funds.
Pelletier will design the distribution plan for the money — much of which will be granted out to towns — and will be responsible for the strict compliance and reporting requirements associated with the funds.
The county has budgeted $450,000 for the position, to be spent over five years on salary and benefits. It will be funded roughly 60 percent by the county and 40 percent by Aroostook towns looking to use Steve Pelletier’s services, County Administrator Ryan Pelletier said.
A total of 32 towns have signed on to share 2 percent of their municipal ARP allocation — money separate from the county’s and different amounts depending on the size of each town. Ryan Pelletier set out to recruit just 20 towns to participate, a goal he’s far exceeded, but now expects several more may join before Steve Pelletier starts on Sept. 13.
Aroostook is not the only county in Maine to hire an ARP fund manager: Penobscot brought on recently retired county administrator Bill Collins and York County also hired David Nalchajian, who started in early August.
Other counties are considering hiring, promoting someone from within the government or expanding the duties of the county administrator to include managing ARPA money, Maine County Commissioners Association Administrator Lauren Haven said. The counties will likely announce their plans at the next meeting of county administrators on Sept. 8, she added.
County ARP money is heavily regulated by the federal government, and very few projects qualify for funding — that’s one of the major reasons many counties are considering bringing on people to focus on compliance, Haven said. If a project is out of compliance, the county could wind up with the bill.
“Nobody has extra money like that laying around to do these projects without it being funded,” she said. “We’re going to make sure that all of the projects are [compliant].”
After almost nine years as Fort Kent’s code enforcement officer, Steve Pelletier feels well-prepared for his new role. He spent a majority of that time working on an addition to Fort Kent’s levy wall, which required coordination with several state and federal agencies including the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, the Maine Department of Environmental Protection and the Maine Department of Transportation.
Steve Pelletier will stay on as code enforcement officer until Oct. 29, at which point he will fully transition into his new county role.
“It’s bittersweet for me,” Pelletier said. “I fully intended to probably retire here but this new position with the county really piqued my interest.”