NEWINGTON - The town is looking at how to spend over $4.4 million in additional covid-19 relief funds from the government, expected next year.
Finance Director Janet Murphy presented the Town Council a list of projects, programs and services that were bolstered by the initial $4.4 million of Coronavirus State and Local Fiscal Recovery Funds under the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA).
“This was compiled from all the directors within Town Hall giving their input and suggestions, along with looking at what we could use the funds for and what other towns were doing with the funds,” Murphy said.
Town Manager Keith Chapman directed her to solicit information from town department heads on needs and projects that could benefit from funds and which fall within the eligible areas as dictated by the program. Mandated uses include public health expenditures, addressing negative economic impacts caused by the pandemic, replacement of lost public sector revenue, premium pay for essential workers and improvements in water, sewer and broadband infrastructure.
“We’re not at all ready to make recommendations to the council but we wanted to give you an update on where we stand at this point,” Chapman said.
Among the line items benefitting from the first round of funds are two new ambulances needed by Newington Emergency Medical Services, hands-free water fountains for town facilities and an upgrade to the town’s software system. Other projects in the works include the replacement of life-saving AEDs at the police and fire departments, a self-service kiosk in town hall for residents to conduct business remotely, and broadband fiber-optics improvements.
Future projects include providing businesses and residents with financial assistance, and addressing significant drainage problems throughout the town.
Although it’s the responsibility of the town to distribute ARPA funds, staff wished to confirm larger allotments with elected officials.
“We will come back to you of course to lock in this list because this will affect how we plan our CIP (Capital Improvements) for budgeting,” Murphy said. “Keep that in mind as we start to define it a little better.”
Councilors had a few suggestions to be added to the potential list of funding allocations.
“One thing I think everybody on this council has heard from the residents is about how not user-friendly our town website is,” Deputy Mayor Gail Budrejko said, suggesting they hire a consultant to rework the platform.
The town’s population is aging, she added, and residents in general need easy access to pertinent information about town services.
Erica Drzewiecki can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.