West Hartford City Council approves plans to spend more than $ 6 million in ARPA grant funds

Much of the funds to be used immediately will be for improved flood mitigation, police cameras and other public safety equipment.

By Ronni Newton

West Hartford City Council voted unanimously on Tuesday night to allocate more than $ 6 million in American Rescue Plan Act funds to a variety of items that will improve the quality of life in the city and provide funds for projects that the city would otherwise fund through taxpayers. money.

At a meeting in late September, the Council’s Finance and Administration Committee began a discussion of the recommendations made by CEO Matt Hart and city staff regarding the possible use of the funds. Overall, West Hartford will receive more than $ 37 million in ARPA funds – about $ 25 million for the city itself plus $ 12 million of a county allocation – plus West Hartford public schools receive 10 millions of dollars.

The finance and administration committee’s current discussions focus on the city’s $ 25 million grant, half of which has already been received. At its last meeting on December 13, the committee agreed that the items included in the figure of $ 6,267,971 were ready to move forward and should be put to Council for a vote.

“Eligible uses are classified according to the response to the public health emergency or its negative economic impacts, the premium for essential workers, the reduction in income and investment in water, sewage or broadband infrastructure, ”Hart said as the backdrop to the proposal he presented in its entirety. Advice Tuesday evening.

Overall, funds approved on Tuesday will be used for projects that improve cybersecurity and fund major public safety investments such as the purchase of body cameras for the police department, a mobile command vehicle (375 $ 000) and surveillance cameras ($ 500,000).

The police department’s body cameras should have been purchased gradually through the city’s one-time capital expenditure account (CNRE), but the ARPA funds will instead cover the full expenditure of $ 1,060,971 for the cameras and the expenses of the city. storage for a period of five years. Police Chief Vernon Riddick told the Finance and Administration Committee that surveillance cameras would be a “force multiplier” – something that would provide police with important information in the event of an unfortunate event.

Other uses of the funds will include providing public Internet access in city parks as well as the Center and Blue Back Square ($ 100,000), renovating the Buena Vista pickleball / tennis courts ($ 51,000 ), upgrade the equipment at the Veterans Memorial rink ($ 100,000), install self-service kiosks ($ 50,000) and pay for expenses incurred by West Hartford Community Interactive to host virtual meetings ($ 30,000) .

The biggest ticket is $ 3,200,000 for flood mitigation infrastructure upgrades. This money will be used to begin design, permitting and planning work for a large and critical multi-year project that will solve flooding problems throughout the city. According to finance director Peter Privitera, the engineering company the city hired to work on this project said it was important to get started as soon as possible so that the ARPA funds could be used during the period they are in. available.

A complete list of projects is included in PDF format below.

“These are things we need to implement immediately,” Deputy Mayor Liam Sweeney said. In terms of spending on stormwater and investing in public safety, he said, “it’s a very effective way to get things done with these funds” and to protect the community.

He also said he appreciated the bipartisan support for increasing the Eisenhower Park swimming pool replacement schedule.

Council also unanimously approved a fast-track plan to replace the pool and baths at Eisenhower Park. The cost will be paid with $ 2,500,000 from the city improvement plan, funded by bonds. The funds that were originally included in the CIP for the flood mitigation project – now funded by ARPA – will offset the cost of the swimming pool and public baths.

The pool broke down last summer and could not be used, and although the planned replacement was in the PAC for a few years, the staff would like to get the pool and bathhouse back online as soon as possible. Work will begin as soon as possible with plans to have the new facilities ready for use by the 2023 season.

“I am happy and thrilled to see how we are appropriating this money, especially as we are still in the midst of the pandemic,” Council member Carol Anderson Blanks said, noting that the plan is a very good use of resources. .

“All of these projects are ready to go,” said Council member Leon Davidoff. Going forward, communities across the country will be judged on how they use American Rescue Plan Act funds – either for long-term investments or to correct a budget deficit, and he’s happy that West Hartford falls into the first.

Funding for WHCi, which “plays a very important role in our community,” is important, he said. And the city’s surveillance cameras “would be another tool our police department could use.”

“There is an important responsibility for how we spend – invest – these ARPA funds,” said Mayor Shari Cantor. “We really want to facilitate access to public space,” and internet access and self-service kiosks will be helpful, she said.

She noted that the mobile command vehicle – which is not a “tank” but rather a vehicle that will serve as a base for responders to an incident site – will be useful in an emergency and, along with the cameras. monitoring, will make the community safer.

Before Council moved to the main business of the meeting, they also welcomed the Webelos from the 145 Cub Scout Pack, who led the Pledge of Allegiance.

West Hartford Mayor Shari Cantor read a proclamation honoring the Squires who go out of business at the end of the year and donated their remaining treasure funds, more than $ 7,000, to the Town That Cares Fund. Photo credit: Ronni Newton

Two proclamations were also presented – one noting the announcement of West Hartford Superintendent of Schools, Tom Moore, as Superintendent of the Year, and another recognizing the Squires.

After more than 50 years of existence, the Squires, one of West Hartford’s three retired men’s social clubs, will cease operations at the end of 2021. The remaining funds from their treasury, totaling $ 7,868.79, have been donated to the City That Cares Fund, said member Jeffrey Cole.

The Council also received a new flag, which will be displayed in Council Chambers. Davidoff led the initiative to obtain a flag with the city’s current logo, and a second flag was purchased for use at events.

City council member Leon Davidoff shows off the new flag. Photo credit: Ronni Newton

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