By Andreas Yilma Citizen’s News
PROSPECT — A town subcommittee is finalizing a survey to get resident feedback on how to spend its COVID-19 relief funds.
The town received $1.4 million out of its total $2.8 million federal American Rescue Plan funds in June. The town’s American Rescue Plan Act Funds Subcommittee, consisting of town council members Theresa C. Graveline, Kathryn Zandri, Megan Patchkofsky and Michael Palmerie Jr., discussed some of the options on what to spend the funds on and how to get public input.
“My only goal for this meeting tonight was to get started, get sort of a wish list, see who else we want to contact directly and then talk about how we’re going to engage the public,” Graveline said at the subcommittee’s virtual meeting on Wednesday.
Federal guidelines for spending the money include supporting public health expenditures, addressing negative economic impacts caused by the pandemic, replacing lost public revenue, providing premium pay for essential workers, and investing in water, sewer and broadband infrastructure, according to the U.S. Department of Treasury website.
Some suggestions include a 450 square foot addition to the office area and kitchen of the senior center and putting in air quality and air conditioning systems in community center, Mayor Robert J. Chatfield said at the meeting.
“We do not have any air conditioning in that building and/or nothing to clean the air that we could change filters on which would help contain Covid,” said Chatfield.
Graveline said officials will need to soon get some idea of cost factors for some of the proposals. Any expenditure over $5,000 would have to go out to bid, she added.
Director of Parks and Recreation Chris Moffo sent the subcommittee a list of options to consider, including water bottle filling stations, touchless faucets and toilet fixtures for the community center and the Hotchkiss Field restrooms, ceiling fans and a shower and locker room for the community center, a splash pad, and a playground and fitness trail at Hotchkiss Field or around McGrath Park.
Palmerie Jr. said one of his suggestions is to upgrade water and sewer infrastructure.
“I think that it would help a Covid-related scenario, the businesses that were affected with covid, that did have to close, that did have to shorten their hours,” Palmerie Jr. said. “This would take a burden off them with having a septic and having a sewer system.”
Zandri said options could include upgrading the ventilation and showers at the police department used if an officer is exposed to hazardous materials, senior information technology training programs to expand on social contact, and some tax relief.
“I’d like to look at some tax relief, a percentage of it to be determined for businesses that did not qualify for other federal and state programs due to not having enough employees or might have been too small,” Zandri said.
Patchkofsky said her suggestions include upgrading the ventilation system at the fire department, expanding and renovating the food bank and possibly create a public health position solely for the town aside from being part of Chesprocott Health District.
“It’s a larger conversation but if we have the funds, we can do the research and see, is it cost effective to stay and be with two other towns or is it something we can do on our own end that would save money,” Patchkofsky said.
The town went up almost $20,000 from the last budget season to the current one. Chesprocott is torn between maintaining two other towns, Cheshire and Wolcott, significantly larger than Prospect, according Patchkofsky.
Chatfield said it would have to be more than one person to give the town the services that Chesprocott is providing the town now.
The town has until 2026 to spend the funds and could get help from the Naugatuck Valley Council of Governments.
“The Council of Governments is offering to area towns assistance with the managing of these funds,” Chatfield said.
The subcommittee discussed putting a survey in public places such as the Prospect Library, the community center, various businesses and distributing it through Prospect Elementary School.
“I also think it’s a good idea to involve the youth because they’re just as much part of the community and they have valuable input,” Zandri said. “We want everyone’s perspective.”
The subcommittee plans to distribute the survey before having a town meeting on the ARP funds. The group was scheduled to meet today at 5:45 p.m. to review the survey before presenting it to the town council at its Jan. 18 meeting for approval.