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Meriden ARPA panel backs funds for Little League, youth mentor program, legion

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MERIDEN — Proposals to fund Meriden Little League field improvements, to support a youth mentorship and community service program, and to finance building improvements for the American Legion Post 45’s headquarters are among the latest projects a committee has recommended to receive federal COVID-19 funds.

The city’s American Rescue Plan Act Steering Committee, which met on Monday night, recommended funding for Meriden Little League, Ball Headz and the American Legion, along with a separate request to fund a commercial space reuse program proposed by city economic development officials. The committee’s recommendations do not mean the projects have been approved. The City Council must now act on the recommendations. 

During the meeting, City Manager Timothy Coon provided an update on the city’s current American Rescue Plan Act fund balance. The balance stands at $18.47 million, without factoring in the projects that now await the council’s approval. The total amount of those four requests is about $5.3 million. The city’s total ARPA allocation is $36.3 million. 

After a substantial discussion and a line-by-line review of Meriden Little League’s request, the ARPA panel ultimately backed a significantly scaled down version. The league originally submitted a $624,500 request to fund a wide array of improvements to the Ed Walsh Little League Complex, located on Overlook Road. The committee previously tabled a vote on the request twice. 

Ultimately, the committee recommended the league receive $200,676 worth of ARPA funds. Committee members struck funding for the installation of lighting, the most costly item on the request, from its recommendation. 

During discussions, committee members said they struggled with the price tag of the overall request and asked the league’s leadership to indicate which items were its priority. 

While lighting was still a top priority, Larry Boada, the league’s secretary, described other items — new fencing, a maintenance garage and new mowers and field grooming equipment — as other priorities that would greatly improve the field’s playability. 

The committee recommended funding both Ball Headz’s and the American Legion’s requests. 

Wilton Carraway Jr., speaking on behalf of Ball Headz, described the organization’s objectives to mentor inner-city youth and encourage civic engagement. The organization’s request — $52,000 in annual funding for three years, totaling $156,000 — would enable it to expand its existing mentorship program and to launch what Carraway described as an “Adopt a Block” initiative. Working with the community, the organization would commit to maintaining an area for a period of one to two years, with multiple cleanups throughout that time. 

Justin Mitchell, Ball Headz founder, is a member of the ARPA Steering Committee. Before the proposal was presented, Mitchell left the council chambers and recused himself from the discussion. He abstained from the vote, which was unanimous.

The American Legion seeks $42,740 to fund a project to replace all of the windows throughout its more than 70-year-old facility at 835 Hanover Road with more energy efficient windows. The project also seeks to replace the property’s flood lights with more efficient LED lighting. 

After committee members and members of the public asked questions and raised concerns about ensuring the proposal follows the city’s bidding process and to ensure that environmental mitigations are implemented, the committee voted unanimously to recommend the council authorize its funding. 

Reporter Michael Gagne can be reached at mgagne@record-journal.com.


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