WALLINGFORD — The Town Council plans to meet next week to discuss how to disburse federal American Rescue Plan Act funds to individuals, business and other entities affected by COVID-19.
The meeting is scheduled for 6:30 p.m. Tuesday in Town Hall council chambers.
Wallingford is slated to receive $13,118,305 in two payments of about $6,559,152 each.
The first half has already been deposited and the other half is slated to come in next year. Municipalities are obligated to spend the first half of their payments within two years.
According to the meeting agenda, the council plans to review guidance from the Connecticut Conference of Municipalities — an organization of municipal leaders that represents and advocates for the interests of local government — as well as review how other municipalities have used ARPA funds.
The council plans to discuss creating a committee which would review applications for ARPA funds and propose guidelines for the use of ARPA funds to the council.
The council also is slated to discuss hiring UHY Advisors, a nationwide tax and business consulting firm, as a consultant to advise town officials on reporting and accounting for ARPA expenditures.
UHY was the sole bidder in a request for a consultant to assist with the disbursement of Wallingford's ARPA award.
The bid was awarded Nov. 15, according to a letter from the Purchasing Department, however Mayor William W. Dickinson Jr. said in an interview with the Record-Journal the next day that the bid won't be awarded until the Town Council approves funding.
Dickinson said Thursday that because UHY’s contract has not been created yet and the council has not approved funding, he considers the bid not awarded.
“By awarded, I would say we have entered into a contract,” he said. “We haven't entered into any contract … There's no contract until there's appropriation of funds.”
UHY's cost is listed at $148.06 an hour. The council is slated to vote on appropriating $25,000 of the town’s ARPA award to hire UHY.
“It’s an hourly amount they're paid,” Dickinson said, “so how long that will take, and ultimately need more money, will be a question of how frequently we use them.”Need for transparency
It has always been the plan to form an ARPA committee of government and community leaders, or use the Economic Development Commission, to act as the body that would accept and review applications from individuals, business and other entities seeking ARPA grants.
It’s unknown whether the council would have the chance to put the final stamp of approval on each ARPA fund expenditure.
That authority could be delegated to the ARPA committee, Dickinson said, or the council could approve every application individually upon the recommendation of the ARPA committee.
At the Nov. 23 meeting, the council discussed the formation of an ARPA committee as suggested by Councilor Christina Tatta, ultimately deciding to schedule Tuesday’s special meeting.
Councilor Joe Marrone spoke about the need for transparency in awarding ARPA grants and the usefulness of an ARPA committee.
“No matter who gets selected at the end, (however) this money is distributed, someone's going to cry foul,” Marrone said. “It's going to be someone that's not going to get paid that's going to be upset about it.”
Councilor Jason Zandri echoed Marrone’s comments, saying there might be a scenario where a business’s ARPA grant application gets declined and people might want to know why.
“They may not realize that that business may have already applied for funds independently and received them,” Zandri said. “There's a number of restaurants and businesses that applied for funding because of the pandemic, and were granted that funding. They probably wouldn't get anything from this, because they've already received something else.”
He added that the public may want a chance to weigh in on how the ARPA money is spent, whether on local businesses affected by COVID-19 or on government projects, which are allowed in a limited scope to replace the loss public sector revenue.