Log In

Reset Password

Selectmen Reform ARP Committee, Approve Money For Community Center



Text Size

During the prior town administration under former First Selectman Dan Rosenthal, the American Rescue Plan Ad Hoc Committee served as the first step for many projects that were eventually approved to be paid for with ARP funding.

The town is currently down to the last part of its $7.5 million grant from the federal government to help pay for pandemic-related costs, and the new Board of Selectmen under First Selectman Jeff Capeci has reformed the committee to help decide how the last of the funding should be spent, as well as how to reallocate any funding from previous town appropriations that end up unused.

All funding must be encumbered by the end of this year and spent by 2026. Any money that has already been appropriated for a project but ends up unused must be reallocated elsewhere before the end of this year.

The new ad hoc committee is comprised of Selectman Michelle Embree Ku, Board of Finance members Steve Goodridge and John Fletcher, and Legislative Councilmen Derek Pisani and Eric Paradis, with Capeci serving as an ex officio member.

Embree Ku said at the February 20 Board of Selectmen meeting that it was good to have the ad hoc committee formed before the impending departure of Finance Director Bob Tait, who is retiring in April, to tap his long experience with the town and with the ARP funding before his retirement.

Also concerning the finance director position, Capeci reported to the selectmen that the process for hiring a new person to the position is in the end stages. The field of applicants had been whittled down to four, and the final interviews of two candidates were conducted earlier that week. Capeci said he hopes to present the final candidate to the Board of Selectmen at a special meeting on Monday, February 26, which will also be the same night the Board of Finance is scheduled to meet for budget discussions.

“The urgency [in holding a special meeting instead of waiting for the next regularly scheduled BOS meeting] is that one of the candidates requires four weeks notice at their current position, and we want at least two weeks overlap with [Tait],” said Capeci.

Two Appropriations For Community Center

In other Board of Selectmen news, selectmen approved two appropriations for Newtown Community Center, one for an HVAC project for the pool area and one for a playscape.

Concerning the HVAC, the selectmen approved an appropriation of $500,000, with $250,000 coming from the town’s Capital Non-Recurring Fund and $250,000 coming from Newtown Community Center’s Special Revenue Fund, to pay for the project.

Late last year, Community Center Director Matt Ariniello came to the selectmen, the finance board, and the council seeking the project be added to the Capital Improvement Plan (CIP).

During those meetings, he explained that in response to a number of technical problems with their aquatics center, including the 50 ton HVAC unit that heats and cools the pool area shutting down due to water condensation, they had an engineering firm look at the system. The engineering firm determined that the 50 ton HVAC unit was not sufficient to meet the needs of the aquatics center.

There were two plans — a $1.2 million plan that would replace the current unit with a 100 ton unit and require the community center be shut down while work is being done, which is what occurred with Hawley School when it was having HVAC work done, or a $500,000 project to add a second 50 ton unit to assist the current 50 ton unit.

The center has been “plagued” by issues resulting from value engineering of the project to bring it under budget, Community Center Chair Kinga Walsh has said.

In the meantime, Ariniello said the center has been working with the Health Department to make sure the area is safe for swimmers and employees.

The appropriation must still face the BOF and Legislative Council for approvals.

A playscape was also part of this year’s CIP, with the $250,000 appropriation being pulled entirely from the center’s Special Revenue Fund.

Ariniello said he expects ground will be broken on the project in May, and that if the snow melts earlier, it could allow the center to do some pre-construction work earlier.

Both appropriations were approved by the board unanimously.


Editor Jim Taylor can be reached at jim@thebee.com.

Selectman Michelle Embree Ku, First Selectman Jeff Capeci, and Selectman Dan Cruson at the February 20 Board of Selectmen meeting. —Bee Photos, Glass
Newtown Community Center Director Matt Ariniello addresses the Board of Selectmen at the February 20 meeting.
Comments are open. Be civil.

Leave a Reply