$400K in ARPA requests for Little League, Legion, youth program OK’d in Meriden



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MERIDEN — The City Council on Tuesday night voted to approve the use of American Rescue Plan Act funds for Little League baseball field improvements, window and outdoor lighting replacement at the American Legion and the expansion of an existing youth mentorship program. 

The three requests total just shy of $400,000.

With some outstanding questions remaining about the implementation of the program outlined in the fourth application — a $5 million request from economic development officials to spur the reuse of vacant buildings — the council did not take action on the plan and instead voted to refer it to the council’s Economic Development, Housing and Zoning Committee. 

The council’s discussion was brief prior to each of the votes to authorize funding for the Meriden Little League, American Legion Post 45 and Ball Headz. 

The Meriden Little League proposal was the second largest application, in terms of dollar amounts, that went before the council. The American Rescue Plan Act Steering Committee recommended authorizing $200,676 in ARPA funds to improve the fields at the Ed Walsh Little League Complex on Overlook Road. The Steering Committee had discussed the proposal, which originally sought $624,500, over the course of several meetings. 

Ball Headz requested $156,000 for a three-year program. Leaders said the funds would allow the organization to expand its existing youth mentorship program and establish a new “Adopt a Block” initiative to support neighborhood cleanups.

American Legion Post 45 leaders sought $42,740 for more energy efficient windows at its aging headquarters at 835 Hanover Road. The Legion will also replace existing floodlights with more efficient LED lighting. 

With three more requests authorized, more than half of the city’s ARPA funds have been committed. The city has around $18.07 million in ARPA funding remaining, according to estimates calculated by a Record-Journal reporter. The city’s total ARPA allocation is $36.3 million. 

Questions from public

Two of the four speakers who addressed the council during public comment referenced the American Legion application. 

Resident Dan Zaborowski suggested the Legion could have obtained the money needed for the window and light replacements through fundraising. Zaborowski reiterated statements he previously made that the city should use some of its ARPA dollars to enhance the Meriden Senior Center and address the needs of senior citizens.  

John Malavenda blasted the American Legion Post 45 proposal, saying the organization had been issued a cease and desist order by the city related to the storage of construction fill on its Hanover Road property back in 2021. 

Malavenda said construction fill was dumped onto the property, which sits in a protected wetlands area, and that there was no documentation produced on whether it had been contaminated or not. 

“I would seriously look at that,” Malavenda told the council, urging members to table a vote on the Legion’s request. Documents Malavenda brought to the council meeting appeared to confirm that a year ago city planning officials had contacted legion leaders, informing them that the site was not permitted for materials storage. 

Councilor Williams, a former commander of the legion and a current member of the organization, later abstained from the vote. 

“But I want to assure everyone there was never any contaminated soil on the property, via the remarks made by the two attendees who are in the audience,” Williams said. 

Commercial space program

The ARPA proposal with the largest price tag came from the city’s Department of Economic Development.

The $5 million Meriden Commercial Space Upgrade Program seeks to incentivize the reuse of vacant commercial properties by giving property owners and new business owners grants to complete “vanilla-box” renovations of those properties — upgrading them to be in compliance with building and zoning regulations. 

The grants would require property owners and business owners to match city funds. Proposals in the inner city district would be required to provide a 25% match of funds. Meanwhile, proposals outside of the inner city district would be required to provide 50% match of funds. 

The ARPA Steering Committee voted to recommend funding. But City Councilor Yvette Cortez, who chairs the steering committee, on Tuesday night instead motioned to refer the application to the council’s Economic Development, Housing and Zoning Committee.  

Cortez said there have been questions and concerns about the commercial space program’s implementation. 

“We wanted to make sure that we have all of those details sorted out,” Cortez said. 

After Cortez’s motion was seconded, Councilor Larue Graham asked if the program is approved whether the organizations and businesses that receive those funds are then ineligible for city tax abatements. 

Economic Development Director Joseph Feest said past resolutions adopted by the council related to other downtown development have clauses stating that if applicants already receive grants and tax abatements from the city, they cannot apply for another incentive program. 

mgagne@record-journal.com203-317-2231Twitter:@MikeGagneRJ



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