WALLINGFORD — The Town Council has approved final drafts of applications for businesses and nonprofits to seek a portion of the $13.1 million in federal pandemic relief funds the town has received.
In addition to finalizing the documents, the council on Tuesday night directed consulting firm UHY to create an online portal where the applications can be filled out and submitted to the town. The portal, expected to launch early next month, will remain open for 60 days. Paper applications will also be available at the Town Hall.
“Right now we approved the applications for the businesses and nonprofits, so those will be able to go out hopefully soon...There’s still some details to work out, but we've made some progress...,” Councilor Vincent Testa said.
Mayor William W. Dickinson Jr. said UHY will create instructions to guide applicants through the process and will be available for questions as well. The Economic Development Commission will spread information and details will also be available on government access television.
“We'll make every effort to make sure that people are alerted to the opportunity...” Dickinson said.
A committee to review the applications was formed by the council in June. Part of the approval process is a rubric to determine eligibility and how much ARPA funding should be made available.Shared authority
Once the committee has scored applicantions under the Town Council’s framework, it will make a recommendation on distributing funds that will be sent to the council and mayor, which share the authority to spend the money.
The rubric the committee will use to evaluate business applications includes the impact ARPA funding would have in allowing a business to sustain its operations and other pandemic relief funds an applicant has received. For nonprofits, the rubric examines whether the funds would be used toward a need in the Wallingford community, if the organization has the experience to run the proposed project, additional funding required and the timeline.
Councilor Joe Marrone said he’s hopeful he review committee will act more harmoniously than the council and proceed in a non-partisan manner.
“The thing I don't want to see is councilors getting their hands into particular businesses or particular nonprofits … to be frank the council has not had a great track record of moving projects forward,” Marrone said.Municipal projects
Much of the debate during Tuesday’s meeting centered on how municipal projects would be proposed and received by the application review committee.
Marrone pushed for additional measures to ensure that municipal projects that could be funded through ARPA are identified by the mayor’s office and brought before the review committee. His concern is that Dickinson could decline to submit public projects for consideration. However, Tuesday’s discussion appears to have opened opportunities for collaboration.
“The mayor has the ability to gatekeep all of that, but he had expressed an interest in collaboration,” Marrone said.
Dickinson said he believes the process created by the council is workable and has the potential to be successful in getting money allocated in a timely manner.
“I think the majority wanted the committee to review municipal projects — I think it can happen that way, fine,” Dickinson said. “Ultimately the mayor and council have to approve, so if there's a prior step in that process, so be it. But ultimately it has to be approved by mayor and council. And that's true of all of it whether it's nonprofits, businesses or municipal projects.”
Council Chair Vincent Cervoni said he believes there’s been a disconnect between the council and the mayor since the beginning of the ARPA process, with some councilors wanting to exclude Dickinson from deliberations.
“Without the administration, the practical execution and distribution of the money is impossible. The council doesn’t have the ability to administer processes, the council doesn’t have the ability to distribute funds,” he said.
While he believes the framework for the committee and the completion of the application documents are a good step toward moving the APRA process along, Cervoni remains concerned that some of the same disagreements could carry over in the review committee’s work.
“I'm concerned just because of the way the whole thing has gone. There's a level of contentiousness about this that’s just unsettling,” he said. “ … Who knows what’s going to happen when the committee meets. I hope all the committee members see the higher purpose instead of representing an individual constituency.”