MERIDEN — The City Council voted 8-0 Monday night to approve spending $250,000 in ARPA funds to pay for a design and evaluation assessment for a new senior center with the potential for other uses included in the project.
City officials have been laying the groundwork for the needs assessment, cost and design review. Monday’s vote follows a recommendation from the American Rescue Plan Act Steering Committee last week that the City Council authorize the funding request. Last month, the City Council agreed to approve establishing a new Senior Center Building Review Ad Hoc Committee to work with the consultant.
Mayor Kevin Scarpati forwarded to the council the names of seven individuals who would sit on the committee. Those committee members will likely be confirmed during the council's first meeting in December, following a vetting period of two council meetings.
The $250,000 will cover a needs assessment, and cost analysis based on possible new construction or renovating the existing West Main Street Center. The design review will also consider possible other uses incorporated into the project particularly the Department of Health and Human Services on Miller Street, currently in a decaying building prone to flooding.
City officials are generally supportive of the review stating the existing space on West Main Street is outdated and its former use as a department store is not suitable for the city’s senior population.
"The physical layout of the building is not conducive to best practice use of space for senior programming and support. The building is also in need of repair and updating, and located in a relatively difficult to use location for the population it serves," the application states.
The application stated the request for proposals for the design consultant would be issued upon approval of the funding request. The proposal notes the work to be carried out by that consultant is expected to begin in January 2023 and be complete by the following July 1.
During the ARPA Steering Committee's consideration of the funding request, City Manager Timothy Coon and Mayor Kevin Scarpati discussed the tasks of the yet-to-be hired firm.
Those tasks include the development plans for the senior center, which could include the construction of a new facility, based on the information and community feedback gathered during the building review process.
Scarpati, who has been vocal in his desire to see a new senior center building constructed, reiterated that sentiment during the ARPA Steering Committee's discussion. He noted the requested federal COVID-19 relief funds will not be used for the construction of a new building.
"This will allow us to hire a consultant who would conduct public outreach, focus groups and surveys, to understand what it is our senior population is in search for," Scarpati told the Record-Journal last week, adding that the Stoddard Building where the Health & Human Services Department is located, is also "in need of significant repair or replacement."
Coon said the average overall cost of such a facility would be "in the ballpark" of $15 million to $20 million. In other business
The City Council approved a recommendation by the City Council’s Human Services Committee to change the city code to allow traveling food vendors with permits from other towns to operate in the city.
The action is in anticipation of the city signing an itinerant Food Vendor Reciprocal Licensing Memorandum of Understanding, said Lea Crown, director of Health & Human Services. The three-year pilot program allows food vendors from participating towns to conduct business there if they’ve been issued valid permits from local health districts. The program will be evaluated after three years.
“For example, if Wallingford and Meriden have both signed the MOU, and a truck from Wallingford wishes to vend in Meriden, they will not need to take out a license with us,” Crown stated in an email. “We reserve the right to inspect, but cannot charge a fee for that inspection. We also reserve the right to issue orders to shut down operations if violations are found that could be injurious to public health.”
But, if a truck from North Haven wants to vend in Meriden and North Haven has not signed the MOU, that itinerant food vendor will still need to take out a health permit from our office, Crown added.
Vendors will still, however, need to obtain any other city permit needed, such as zoning or police. The itinerant food vendors are responsible for working with each town to ensure compliance with all municipal requirements.
The change does not apply to "temporary events" such as celebrations, festivals, or other transitory gatherings.
Upon reviewing Chapter 112, the definition of itinerant food vendors was missing. There was also no language regarding open style push carts, which are not permitted in Meriden, Crown said.
The city currently has 17 ilicensed tinerant food vendors.