MERIDEN — The individuals selected to serve on the city’s American Rescue Plan Steering Committee form a group that is politically bipartisan and includes the leader of a local non-profit organization and a local business owner.
The council is expected to vote to confirm the steering committee’s membership when it meets on Aug. 2.
Meanwhile, during a remote meeting Monday Night, the council voted 9 to 2 to approve a request to convert an entry level clerk position in the Department of Public Works and Engineering into an administrative services position. According to officials, the new position requires financial expertise to monitor expenses and the department’s revenues, including state bond and grant revenues.
The nine-member American Rescue Plan Steering Committee’s will make a recommendation to the City Council on the use of more than $36 million in federal American Rescue Plan Act aid the city expects.
Mayor Kevin Scarpati, during a remote meeting of the City Council Monday night, announced the nine member group would include city councilors Michael Rohde and Yvette Cortez, both Democrats, along with Republican Michael Carabetta. Representing the Board of Education would be Kim Carbone Pandiani, a Republican.
Scarpati named city residents Justin Mitchell and Jessie Hettrick as community members on the steering committee.
Mitchell is the leader of Ball Headz, a non-profit organization that serves student athletes and all youth, “teaching them to apply the principles of mindfulness to every aspect of their lives,” according to its Facebook page.
Hettrick is a co-owner of Double Play Cafe in Wallingford.
Scarpati touted the credentials of both appointees. He described Mitchell as a “very active member of our community,” who is especially focused on helping youth develop teamwork skills.
“What Justin has been big on is giving back to his community,” Scarpati said, adding Mitchell has been involved in numerous community clean up days. He has also worked with the library and with city schools. “He’s helped get our youth engaged,” the mayor said.
Hettrick, meanwhile, as a part-owner of the Double Play Cafe, brings a familiarity “with the struggles of businesses in Connecticut,” Scarpati said. Those struggles include “what it was like to go through a pandemic, to keep staff on, to keep patrons and remain open,” Scarpati said.
Scarpati, along with City Manager Timothy Coon and city Finance Director Kevin McNabola, had already been named as members of the committee in a previous City Council resolution.
Meanwhile, after deliberating over whether to discharge the finance committee of its duty to review the request for an administrative services position and report to the full council, the council voted to discharge that duty. Members Bruce Fontanella and Bob Williams Jr. voted against the measure.
Fontanella asked Coon, the city manager, whether the administrative work that would be performed by the administrative services position is currently being done now.
Coon responded “yes” — adding it is being distributed across a number of different departments. He said some of that work is being performed by Department of Public Works and Engineering Director Howard Weissberg. Some of it, he said, is being done by the city’s finance department.
The latter, Coon said, comes with the disadvantage of “not being involved in the projects” overseen.
Fontanella said the proper procedure would have been to introduce the request to the council, and refer it to both the personnel and finance committees for vetting. He described the process the council followed as against its rules.
“I would ask our fellow councilors to vote against this so we can do proper vetting as established,” Fontanella said.
City Councilor Michael Rohde asked whether there is funding available for the position.
Coon said the difference between salaries of the entry level clerk position and the administrative services position is within an $8,000 to $11,000 range.
The actual salary received depends “on the individual that is brought in,” Coon said. “That delta is something that could be easily addressed through the course of the year.”
City Councilor Dan Brunet, the minority party leader, argued in favor of discharging the finance committee of its duty to review the proposal. He said, “Everything was discussed in depth” during the personnel committee meeting.
“Everybody that attended that meeting has a full view of what took place. I just felt we were going to hear the same thing twice. Discharge them,” Brunet said.