WALLINGFORD — The ARPA Application Review Committee had intended to review 14 applications tonight — a mix of six nonprofits and eight small businesses — for their eligibility for federal pandemic relief funds.
But on Monday, that agenda was amended. The list of applicants was gone, replaced by one item: "Discussion and possible action regarding the Committee's next steps and plans for future evaluations of grant applications and other procedural and administrative matters."
The change appears to have been prompted by a discussion at the committee's last meeting, when after addressing seven small business applications, the topic of nonprofits came up, and the displeasure of some town councilors regarding several nonprofit applications that were not recommended to move forward for funding under the American Rescue Plan Act.
Town Councilor Vincent Testa submitted a request to the committee that the council receive a report on each nonprofit application the committee denied, stating reasons for its decision. The committee decides whether to recommend an application to the council, which will then make its recommendations to Mayor William Dickinson Jr.
When committee Chairman Mike Brodinsky asked for volunteers to respond to Testa’s request, there were none, according to the March 1 minutes.
There are 10 members of the committee, and each evaluates applications based on a point system that Brodinsky outlines on the bottom of each committee agenda.
“Applications are scored according to written criteria established by the Town Council. Copies of the criteria will be available at the meeting,” it states. “In order for the Committee to recommend an application from a non-profit, it must attain an average score of 75 or more out of 100. Applications from businesses must attain an average score of 70 or more.”
Scoring can reflect a wide range of opinions. For example, at the March 1 meeting, the committee evaluated an application from ZR Coop Services, which provides painting restoration to medical facilities and nursing homes. The 10 scores ranged from 32 to 79, which led to the decision not to recommend the application to the Town Council.
According to the meeting minutes, Brodinsky said providing Testa and the council the requested information “would be the instrument of our own demise” and sees the request as “bullying and political interference.” The committee’s rationale for its decision is outlined in each meeting’s minutes, he said, according to the minutes.
Committee member Craig Fishbein, who also is a member of the Town Council, agreed with Brodinsky’s conclusion, according to the minutes, saying it’s “all about politics and personal relationships.”
Brodinsky proposed three possible solutions to the situation: stop reviewing nonprofit applications; stop reviewing all applications, or proceed as the committee has been with no change. No decision was made, but the committee agreed to continue the discussion at Tuesday’s meeting, which takes place at 6:30 p.m. at the HUBCAP, 128 Center St.