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Mills River makes decision on spending $1.1M in rescue plan money

MILLS RIVER — Following several months of discussion, public input and workshops, the Mills River Town Council voted to allocate its American Rescue Plan grant in two phases of about $1.1 million each.

Using the town’s comprehensive plan as a guide, the council agreed to earmark $500,000 for land conservation, $500,000 to acquire property to expand and improve existing services and $100,000 to support nonprofits. Both land conservation and property acquisition seek to address several goals in the town’s recently adopted Making Mills River comprehensive plan, including protecting and preserving the rural and agricultural character of Mills River, promoting the preservation of agricultural and natural lands and encouraging land stewardship.
“This first phase of funding is an effort to make investments in Mills River which will have a lasting legacy for the community,” Mayor Shanon Gonce said.

In addition to legacy projects, a portion of the funds is intended to support local area nonprofits that serve residents of Mills River by providing funding opportunities for one-time projects like building improvements, equipment replacement or other large purchases.
The council repeated its sentiment several times during a workshop that this is the first phase of funding. When considering a second phase next year, funding amounts, projects or goals may be adjusted based upon feedback and the results of the first phase. Requesting funding for these types of projects does not disqualify an organization from seeking additional funding next spring during the development of the annual budget.
“I am proud to be part of a council that has a vision for the future by funding projects like land preservation and looking for opportunities to provide more space for parks, while also partnering with nonprofits to serve the community," Mayor pro tem Randy Austin said. "It is a win-win for everyone.”