ARP allocations require thoughtful and careful planning

Posted: Feb 24, 2022 3:00 PM

In the coming weeks, Newtown and the Borough of Newtown will get to work finalizing how its leaders will allocate funds from the US bailout, more commonly known as ARP.

In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, Congress designated ARP funding for grants, contracts, and other agency activities that identify and address — through a range of local initiatives – disproportionate harm and risk to the environment or public health in underserved communities.

The Connecticut Conference of Municipalities reported that of this total federal distribution, Connecticut cities were to receive $2.55 billion statewide – $1.56 billion for general government and $995 million for municipalities. schools.

Of this, the Municipality of Newtown received $7.67 million, while the Borough of Newtown – considered a separate municipality with respect to the distribution of funds – received an additional $274,000.

Since late last year, Newtown and borough officials have been deliberating and evaluating how to distribute and use this one-time windfall to better serve residents, without necessarily creating initiatives or programs that will require additional (or substantial) taxpayer subscription once the initial ARP funds are spent.

In mid-December, borough leaders began considering allocating its funds to improvements and projects involving Hawley School and Newtown Middle School. More recently, the Newtown Historical Society has also been considered for part of the borough’s ARP funding.

A list of public safety items totaling approximately $16,000 requested by Newtown Hook & Ladder and $5,650 requested by CH Booth Library were also recently approved. While the borough’s ARP funds are distributed through its Board of Burgesses, Newtown established a six-person task force comprised of members of the Legislative Council, Board of Finance, and Board of Selectmen to review, discuss, and recommend allowances.

After quickly deciding to transfer $2.5 million to offset the bond for HVAC improvements at Hawley School – independent of any borough allocation – the task force passed on a number of suggestions that are now blazing a trail. path through the required elected panels.

Earlier this month, the Legislative Council received its first report on these suggestions, which include: $1.5 million for a water system in Fairfield Hills; $140,000 to replace the roof of the multipurpose building that houses the Children’s Adventure Center; Grants of $15,000 for each of the city’s five fire companies (again, independent of any borough allocation); Newtown Underwater Search And Rescue (NUSAR) and Newtown Volunteer Ambulance Corps.

Additional considerations include $325,000 to reimburse the city’s self-paid medical insurance, $50,000 for fire extinguisher tank repairs and $40,000 to reimburse COVID expenses. The Newtown Community Center recently requested $155,000 for a patio project, $75,000 for a storage shed, $75,000 for a generator, and $200,000 for a recreational outdoor “splash paw.”

Although all of the requests that have been defined, recommended and, in some cases, already approved, appear to create positive benefits for the community, we encourage decision-makers to continue to act with caution and thoughtfulness as they begin to untie the strings of their purse ARP. We also encourage community members to step in during public engagement sessions with the council if they have other better ideas about where this shared public windfall should be spent.

James V. Hayes