The American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) working group met September 8 at a special Board of Selectmen meeting to present potential projects for which the funds might be used.
New Fairfield is set to receive a total of $4,107,202.22. The funds will be made available over 2 years, half ($2,053,601.11) in 2021 and the other half in 2022. The town received the first allotment in June and is keeping it in a segregated fund. Funds must be obligated by December 31, 2024 and spent by December 31, 2026. The Treasury Department must sign off on all proposed expenditures.
According to the act, the purpose of these funds is “to provide a substantial infusion of resources to help turn the tide on the pandemic, address its economic fallout, and lay the foundation for a strong and equitable recovery.”
Director of Emergency Management Maria Evans gave a presentation on potential public safety projects. These included replacing the dispatch center’s communication consoles, installing bollards in front of the police department and the oil storage tank, installing a fence and gate around the police vehicle parking area, and other security measures.
First Selectman Pat Del Monaco asked Ms. Evans to obtain more details on the proposed projects as well as cost estimates for the next meeting.
Ms. Del Monaco then discussed possible town infrastructure projects. The first is a sewer study and design project that would install sewers in the downtown area that would be connected to the Danbury sewage treatment plant. The cost estimate for the study and design is $1.3 million. The other infrastructure project would be to replace the town park’s beach house for an estimated cost of $800,000. This project, she noted, has been proposed several times over the years.
Ms. Del Monaco also said that Director of Social Services Cindy White and the Prevention Council had proposed some projects. These include some form of affordable housing needs assessment, community center activities for residents of all ages, an emergency housing fund, and an education advancement and job training fund.
Selectman Khris Hall cautioned that a community center would be a “huge nut” to crack. She pointed out that it was not a one time expense, but something that would be ongoing. She said she felt that such a project would not be within the scope of the ARPA funds.
Selectman Kim Hanson concurred and suggested the possibility of using some portion or all of Consolidated School, as a community center. Maria Evans agreed saying, “It would be perfect. It already has a gym, and classrooms for different break out rooms.”
Ms. Del Monaco noted that the reason Consolidated had been slated to be demolished in the first place was that the cost to renovate it would be “quite high”. She said that part of the building has a failing foundation and that heat is located on one end of the building, while the electrical feed is on the other. She said it might be more costly to save part of the building than to demolish it and build something new.
By Greg Slomba