MERIDEN — Requests for federal COVID-19 relief monies reviewed by the American Rescue Plan Act Steering Committee this week included funding to improve Girls Inc.’s Lincoln Street building, along with ball field improvements sought by South Meriden Little League, the Meriden Inn’s request for capital improvements and funding for infrastructure repairs at Hunter Golf Club.
The committee voted to refer all four requests to the City Council, which has final approval authority regarding ARPA funding requests.
Girls Inc.’s $936,230 request would enable the organization to fund a series of projects aimed at improving its aging home at 130 Lincoln St., and to expand its current programming. The plan the organization submitted calls for the installation of new air-handling systems to improve heating and cooling, and overall air quality, in the facility’s gymnasium and in other areas of the building. The application also details plumbing improvements along with plans to remediate the facility’s basement and attic, to reduce the risks of exposure to mold, asbestos and lead.
The proposal also seeks to create new programming spaces, by converting former storage areas in the building, and to improve the organization’s outdoor spaces. The application itself is a revision to its previous request and removed funding for transportation and program scholarships.
The organization’s leaders, in the latest application, stated Girls Inc. saw its operating revenues decline, through program fees and other fundraising, prompting leaders to conserve resources and defer maintenance projects.
At the same time, the organization stated it would fulfill its commitment to serving and supporting girls and their families.
“We are increasingly aware of the hidden, disparate health impacts — both physical and mental — that girls are suffering as a result of the pandemic. We recognize the need for usable outdoor spaces, the myriad factors that contribute to air quality indoors, and the necessity for a variety of flexible spaces for children: gymnasium, movement spaces, and meditation and relaxation spaces allow girls to practice and gain confidence in their ability to control their physical and emotional selves,” leaders wrote in Girls Inc.’s application.
Chad Cardillo, president of Girls Inc.’s board of directors, told ARPA Committee members on Monday that the organization would have tackled the improvements in an incremental way — through a decades-long campaign.
Mayor Kevin Scarpati, a committee member, asked Cardillo how much of the funding the group is seeking would support infrastructure, and how would that influx of funds help sustain the program, as well as help it grow and serve more youth. Scarpati noted that the organization stated it served close to 250 girls on a regular basis.
Cardillo responded that 100% of the organization’s ask would go toward improving the facility. He said all of the organization’s programming — from dance to gymnastics, its afterschool programming and leadership academy — is offered in or around the current building.
“A lot of the stuff, cleaning out the basement, attic, remediating the water damage, would allow us to move things around in the building, to offer programs in more spaces in the building,” Cardillo said. By making those improvements, he said the organization would not only be able to expand the current number of programs it offers, but to enroll more youth in them.
The committee voted seven to one to advance the request to the council.
South Meriden Little League’s $200,000 request to upgrade its fields and surrounding facilities, also received the committee’s backing. League leaders noted that as a result of the pandemic, the league had seen drastic declines in the number of youth participating, along with declining fundraising and other support.
Meanwhile, the committee significantly scaled back Hunter Golf Club’s funding request, from $568,000 to around $303,000. The Golf Commission had sought funding for a series of improvements, including repaving the parking lot at the municipal course, repairing its maintenance road, and installing two portable toilet facilities along the course.
The committee scaled back some of that funding for road reconstruction and for one of the proposed toilet facilities.
Meanwhile, a fourth request, to replace the roof and generator at Meriden Inn, on East Main Street, saw its funding amount increased to $70,000. That amount is a little more than $2,000 over the original ask.
Representatives for the business noted that the roof is currently past its usable life and leaks in spots. The existing generator had been damaged when it was stuck by a motor vehicle. The business also has weathered revenue declines during the pandemic. That revenue was impacted by the now expired eviction moratorium.
Prior to those discussions, City Manager Timothy Coon provided the committee with an update on the status of the city’s ARPA funds. WIthout counting the projects now referred to the council, the city has now committed more than $28.5 million toward city, local business and non-profit projects. The city has a little more than $7.828 million in ARPA funds remaining.