EDITORIAL: Helping business with ARPA funding

Meriden has been moving at a steady pace in awarding money from the federal American Rescue Plan Act. As recently calculated in a Record-Journal story by Michael Gagne, remaining funds from the city’s ARPA allocation are just more than $8.336 million. The city’s total allocation, outside that received by the school board, was more than $36.3 million.

The City Council voted recently to use relief funding to replace the roof of the YMCA building on West Main Street, and to fund improvements to the Dawg House Bar & Grill on Broad Street. There was little discussion of the Y request, but the Dawg House was another story.

Councilor Bruce A. Fontanella was the sole council member to oppose the Dawg House funding, questioning whether for-profit interests should be helped with the federal funds. He said the council was setting a precedent “of funding for-profit capital investments that I will challenge everyone here to remember when those for-profits come before you and ask for the same consideration.”

“I hope you will remember your vote tonight and approve those requests,” he said.

Though his was a no vote, Fontanella’s observation was a positive contribution in bringing up the question of limits to appropriate funding. It was an opportunity for city officials to check on how they were going about awarding this significant funding.

Mayor Kevin Scarpati said a for-profit request was appropriate, “as cleared through our consultant, which we hired to identify eligible projects …”

The mayor also made a statement that can be seen as bottom line: “To prevent another business from closing and another vacant parcel I urge adoption,” he said.

That gets to the heart of the Covid relief funding, which is to help communities respond to the severe impacts of the coronavirus pandemic, which involved months of shuttered or limited business and lost opportunity.

Approving help for the Dawg House, at $150,000, may spur more applications and expectations “for the same consideration,” as Fontanella put it.

That doesn’t mean all applications will get a nod, but seeking help to keep business in business is a good fit for funding.


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