Multiple members of New Canaan’s legislative body last week said that they want to change the way proposed American Rescue Plan Act or “ARPA” allocations are approved after feeling pressured to vote in favor of more than $2 million in the federal funds as a block last month.
The Town Council on Dec. 15 voted 11-1 to approve $2.05 million in ARPA funds for eight items in a single vote.
During the elected body’s Jan. 19 meeting, Councilman Maria Naughton asked whether the Town Council “should consider doing line-item approvals when we get these ARPA requests coming in” since “there were some questions on some” of the items.
“I don’t think there’s that many that it would be burdensome,” Naughton said at the meeting, held via videoconference. “But I felt a little bit pressured last time, because I wanted to vote on certain things, I didn’t want to hold it up.”
The comments came during updates on the Town Council’s various committees. It wasn’t immediately clear which items Naughton referred to as questionable. The allocations included premium pay for town and school district workers, a backup generator and a marketing campaign, as follows:
ARPA Funding Approvals, December 2021
|Premium pay||Town and Board of Ed workers||$725,050|
|NCTV79||Modernization of equipment||$70,000|
|Waveny Park Conservancy||Matching funds for projects||$250,000|
|Parking fund||Replenish lost revenue||$150,000|
|Emergency generator||Backup generator for critical facilities||$250,000|
|Live New Canaan||Marketing project support||$60,000|
|Outdoor bathrooms at Waveny||Renovate for all-season use||$250,000|
|Greenlink sidewalks||Completion of greenlinks||$300,000|
|Total ARPA Allocation||$6 million|
|Remaining ARPA Funds||$3,944,950|
Councilman Hilary Ormond said she agreed with Naughton for “the same reasons.”
“I wanted to make sure we weren’t slowed down on getting the teacher bonuses in,” Ormond said. “That was my highest priority.”
Vice Chair Mark Grzymski and Councilman Luke Kaufman agreed. Kaufman said “it was important” for the workers to receive their bonuses ahead of Christmas, “but I think we’re all on the same page that we should revisit this.”
The town has about $4 million in ARPA funding left to allocate, and has until 2024 to spend it. An as-yet unspecified amount of money will be allocated to nonprofit organizations following the vetting of requests and recommendations by the New Canaan Community Foundation (though the funding requests of at least two nonprofits, including the Board of Realtors, were met through last month’s vote). A member of the Health & Human Services Commission recently advocated for healthcare-related ARPA allocations. Some town officials during the first round of ARPA funding meetings have advocated for increased premium pay for municipal workers.
Councilman Kimberly Norton asked whether,” if we were to do things over again,” a motion could be made to break out the ARPA allocations individually.
Chair Steve Karl said the Town Council would receive the funding recommendations from the Boards of Selectmen and Finance in a block, “but we can break it up line-by-line if there’s a certain project in there that’s controversial, that the Council doesn’t support.”
“We can certainly vote on it, pull it out,” Karl said. “And the best way to do that is line-by-line.”
The two councilman who had been most outspoken in favor of the “Live New Canaan” allocation in the past—Cristina A. Ross and Rita Bettino—said nothing about the proposed change to line-item voting.
Tucker Murphy, a staffer in First Selectman Kevin Moynihan’s office, said that NCCF received 35 applications for ARPA funding. Karl said the Town Council would review NCCF’s recommendations since they’re experts in nonprofits, but would not approve those specific allocations one-by-one.
Ross said that some of the applications the Community Foundation is reviewing rightly should be decided on by the Town Council. Moynihan responded that NCCF is making recommendations to the town about allocations but that the organization is not making final decisions.