EDITORIAL: Wallingford council wants ARPA committee back in action.

Wallingford’s Town Council recently voted to ask members of a committee tasked with reviewing applications for federal pandemic funds to come back to the work. The 10-member committee had decided it could no longer continue and cancelled its meetings. The situation has not reflected well on how the town goes about the business of government, and while it’s worth hoping the committee will return to its work it’s also worth hoping the town has learned a lesson from this experience.

Committee Chairman Mike Brodinsky announced in late March that the committee had voted 5-4 to stop its work  reviewing American Rescue Plan Act applications from nonproifits and small businesses. As Record-Journal coverage put it recently, “tensions arose between the committee and the council over questions of conflicts of interest, the fairness of the scoring system and council objections over some denied applications.”

The process was described as “a certain kind of skulduggery that I’m not interested in,” by Republican Councilor Joseph Marrone.

“We appointed a committee to analyze this whole issue and gave them a charge as to what we expected out of them,” said Marrone. “So then when we didn’t like the decisions that the people — my friends and neighbors that are on the committee — made, we decided to create another formula by which to get people around the initial formula that we agreed to.”

Some discussion of Marrone’s use of the term skulduggery ensued, but perhaps more important is the recognition that something went very much awry here.

“The fact of the matter is there is plenty of blame to go around,” said Democratic Councilor Sam Carmody.  “I think we are all to blame for the predicament that we find ourselves in — and I mean all of us — the mayor, the ARPA Application Review Committee, the consultant, and certainly this council. We all share responsibility for this mess,” he said.

What counts most now is the desire to move forward. The allocation of federal funds, intended to help communities respond to the debilitating effects of the coronavirus pandemic, remains important. Help is needed, and Wallingford’s leaders still have the opportunity to make a major difference. To that end, it’s worth hoping the committee will agree to return to its work.



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