MERIDEN — Mayor Kevin Scarpati plans to finalize the list of individuals nominated to serve on the Meriden American Rescue Plan Steering Committee later this week.
That nine-member committee will recommend how to use more than $36 million in federal American Rescue Plan Act relief funds the city is scheduled to receive. The City Council ultimately has the authority to allocate the funds and must also confirm the appointees.
Scarpati, City Manager Timothy Coon and city Finance Director Kevin McNabola have already been named. The committee will also include three sitting members of the Meriden City Council, a representative from the Board of Education and two community members not presently serving on other city boards.
Scarpati told the Record-Journal on Monday he has fielded inquiries from more than a dozen community members interested in joining the committee. Scarpati described them as “a pretty good cross section” of local business owners, non-profit leaders and members of the city’s senior center.
Scarpati said the list would be submitted to the council ahead of its July 19 meeting. The council will vote on the list after a two-week vetting process.
Scarpati said he hopes the group will be up-and-running before the end of August.
The first few meetings will likely be dedicated to educating committee members on how funds can be used.
“I think there is going to be a learning curve,” Scarpati said, adding that federal guidelines have already changed a few times.
The committee will form its recommendations based on its review of proposed projects, analyses it receives from city staff and public input.
The committee will also be tasked with deepening its understanding of the pandemic’s impact locally.
“There’s going to be some research involved on what the local impact has been on city services, non-profits, businesses, schools, mental health,” Scarpati said, naming some of the issues the committee will likely look at.
Republican City Councilor Dan Brunet, the council’s minority leader, described the amount of federal funding as “unprecedented territory.”
Fellow City Councilor Michael Carabetta will represent the Republican party on the committee.
Brunet said he hopes to see the committee and city leaders “get creative” in putting the money to “good use.”
Brunet cited long term Infrastructure investments like water and sewer upgrades. He described water and sewer rates as “a burden on the community.”
Carabetta, too, said he would like to see that funding be used on items that would help taxpayers.
“I want to make sure we’re saving ourselves money down the road,” he said.
Fellow City Councilor Michael Rohde is one of the Democrats nominated for the committee. Rohde said he would like to see some of the funding go toward the city’s downtown economic development efforts to generate more jobs and grow the tax base.
“COVID really slowed our momentum downtown,” Rohde said.