Leveraging CARES Act Relief Funding to Create Safer Public Facilities

As COVID-19 began to spread across the United States, communities had to make necessary adjustments to keep residents safe. As a form of relief and economic security, the CARES Act relief fund was a $2.2 trillion economic stimulus bill passed by the federal government to allow for assistance while reducing the spread of the COVID-19 outbreak. Through this stimulus package, it became a top priority to find innovative ways to achieve operational objectives, while also considering the health and safety of stakeholders.

To offset the costs incurred due to the coronavirus response, local governments could apply for funding through the CARES Act. With the parameters set in place, this funding was intended for facility improvements that would allow for operations to continue during the pandemic. These intentions could include technology costs for working from home, remodeling costs to mitigate pathogens' transmission and additional pandemic-related needs. This source of relief helped to limit the effects on other projects that would be at risk of being paused from the pandemic.

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The time frame to respond to the pandemic's challenges was urgent, which meant the planning process needed to move rather quickly. In most cases, communities needed to have a determined plan before they could receive payment through the CARES Act relief funding. As a firm, Wold’s role was to assist its clients in the planning process in order to demonstrate that funding would be used efficiently and in the highest-priority areas. It was crucial for our team to move promptly in partnership with communities, as projects needed to be completed before the funding deadline. To achieve results in a short time frame, communities had to have a solid understanding of their facility needs during the pandemic.

Wold is proud to have helped several of our trusted client relationships through the process with several communities, each to successfully achieve a diverse range of unique characteristics for their facility improvement projects.We assisted in developing timelines and associated milestones for each project to ensure items were on pace. Below are a few highlights from the communities we had the pleasure of working alongside. Our team is poised to help other communities in the future navigate similar challenges.


City of Victoria

Located west of Minneapolis-St. Paul, MN with over 9,000 residents, the City of Victoria was in the process of a facility master plan with Wold when the pandemic began. Following the shutdown in early 2020, the city recognized a need to apply for CARES Act relief funding in order to combat the pandemic's challenges. Because of this, it was determined that priorities needed to be shifted to utilize the CARES Act relief funding for upgrades relating to reducing the spread of COVID-19. These needs included facility upgrades to the city hall that would allow community activities to resume in a timely manner.

Shifting from a focus on facility master plan tasks, our team and the city worked together to identify necessary modification to city hall. With a shorter timeline at hand, the entire process was reduced to ensure funding was utilized before the end of 2020. Our team created a safer environment for the cities 5,000 sqft city hall in just three short months as it continued to serve its residents without disruption.

The transformative features of Victoria's City Hall revolve around most public interaction locations. One priority involved a reconfiguration of the council chambers for adequate social distancing for those who planned to attend meetings. During this reconfiguration, our team also enhanced the ADA compliance of the council chambers. Additionally, underutilized space in the council chamber was transformed into conference room space that could be used for alternative working environments.

Following the council chambers' readjustment, another critical priority was to redesign the space to provide a dual-purpose environment. One example of this is combining the facilities break room with a conference room through a sliding wall to allow for dual-purpose utilizations. Beyond this, a wellness room was also added to provide enhanced privacy for individuals, including nursing mothers.

Another priority of the renovation was to provide new furniture for city hall staff and residents. By providing comfortable workspaces at reduced sizes, staff were able to accommodate social distancing protocol. This additional space created room for other alternative working environments, a perk we typically see in modern office designs. Additionally, the city hall's public interface locations were equipped with glass partitions and other coronavirus response protocols. Beyond these safety measures, the renovation includes mechanical infrastructure upgrades to mitigate contaminants.

Previously collaborating on a facility master plan, our team was able to shift course with the City of Victoria to utilize CARES Act funding to transform their city hall. With a quick turn-around, we were able to develop solutions that helped adjust to the pandemic, align with the community's values and most importantly, stay on budget.

City of Crystal Lake

A northwest suburb of Chicago, IL, the City of Crystal Lake serves nearly 40,000 residents. Following an allocation of funding through McHenry County, the City requested assistance from Wold to establish cost estimates for projects that could be adequately funded through the CARES Act. Following these estimations, it was determined that the most cost-effective projects involve improvements to the City’s Municipal Complex.

The first project revolved around providing a safe work environment for City Hall staff and visitors. Features of this project included the implementation of glazing within the openings at all customer service windows to prevent transmission of pathogens. It was critical to add these barriers to ensure that the public service functions of City Hall continued, and the staff had a safe working environment. Beyond the safety enhancement, it was also important that these installations didn't hinder the overall welcoming atmosphere that the City maintains. Being sensitive to an open environment's needs, our team ensured the glazing installation was frameless to prevent a reduction of sightlines. The trim and materials of the installation were also selected to coordinate with the facility’s existing aesthetic. The low-impact visual transformation allowed the City to continue welcoming residents in a manner they've come to expect.

The Municipal Complex was also the location for Wold's second renovation project with the City. For this project, Wold assisted in installing a UV-C light filtration system to the existing HVAC systems, as well as upper air UV-C fixtures mounted in several gathering spaces. This installation was aimed at mitigating the transmission of pathogens in all four departments of the facility: City Hall, Police, Fire, and Public Works. UVC radiation is a known disinfectant for air, water and nonporous surfaces. UVC radiation has effectively been used for decades to reduce the spread of bacteria, such as tuberculosis. For additional information, visit the FDA’s article regarding UV Lights and Lamps.

Although these projects were unique in both scope and schedule, our team utilized its normal user engagement process to identify and gain consensus for appropriate solutions.We received input from key stakeholders, which led to effective solutions -- solutions which helped the City return to some sense of normalcy while keeping residents and staff safe.

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El Paso County

Located in the second-largest metropolitan area in Colorado, El Paso County needed an effective solution to mitigate the risk of COVID-19 for staff and public visitors at the El Paso County Citizen Service Center. After analyzing costs, CARES Act funding was allocated for an interior renovation to relocate and remodel three of the facility's departments that provide services to the public.

Several priorities were highlighted that the team hoped to address through the CSC renovation. The main priority revolved around moving several public-interfacing departments to the facility’s lower level. By doing this, the county could lower the transmission of COVID-19 through a reduction in cross-traffic. Beyond the priority of adjusting the departments’ locations, the Wold team also needed to ensure that the remodeled space was secure with COVID-19 protocol in mind. This included opening the public space further to allow for social distancing, developing sole-purpose entry and exits points and other additional features.

Completed in the fall of 2020, the remodel transformed what was once the center's cafeteria and cafe space into an enhanced area for community services. The underutilized space allowed for a more effortless transformation to an active service location. Now housing several public-facing services, the main floor is an open and welcoming environment safe for both residents and staff. The open area allows for social distancing to occur appropriately, and the enhanced entry/exit points help mitigate cross-traffic. Additional upgrades to the space include glass barriers, partitions and other COVID-19 protocols to reduce the spread of pathogens. The simple-yet-effective transformation allowed all services to return to normality in a proper amount of time.

In just seven short weeks, El Paso County and Wold were able to solidify a design for the transformation of the citizen services center. Through a long-term partnership, Wold has had the privilege of working with the county on several other community projects. During the CARES Act process, our entire team at Wold was appreciative of the highly-engaged collaborative process that occurred with the county. By having a dual understanding of the urgency related to the project's timeline, both teams effectively worked together to create a positive outcome.

These examples showcase how CARES Act relief funding was effectively and efficiently used. As stated before, we share these project narratives as a reminder that a familiar scenario is likely to occur again. If you need any additional information about how we can assist in the future with transformative renovations, do not hesitate to reach out to our team at Wold Architects and Engineers (call 1-888-254-6789 or email Our multidisciplinary team of design professionals would welcome the opportunity to help assess your community’s needs. We are steadfastly dedicated to addressing the unique concerns of the communities, as shown through our experience navigating the CARES Act Relief Fund.

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