With the public having its last opportunity to speak on how it would like to see federal COVID relief funds spent, a wide range of ideas was presented to city officials during a meeting in West Haven High School’s auditorium last week. The special meeting of the City Council was called in order to give the public a chance to offer opinions. The city expects to receive $29 million in American Rescue Act (ARPA) funding.
The ideas ranged from earmarking funds for the Allingtown Library, which has been out of operation for three years, to sewer repairs, a new senior center, new youth center, or putting funds toward the long-dormant Arts Center.
Mayor Nancy M. Rossi was impressed with the ideas brought out by the public, and said these included what she thought were important matters in infrastructure and other matters.
“I thought the most pressing issue and the one most important to our community was flooding,” she said this week. “The (city) has flooding issues citywide. There were also several well received suggestions for other infrastructure, quality of life and programs that would benefit the community now and in the future.”
Asked what she would like to see implemented based on what she heard, the mayor was forthcoming, but realistic.
“I think all the projects submitted by the public are needed and worthwhile. Although the city will receive $29 million, there will not be enough funding to complete all of the suggested projects,” she said. “However, I am confident the city will target and complete projects that will benefit and improve our city infrastructure and quality of life.”
Once the ideas are vetted, the mechanics to have a project approved are simple, and will include oversight by the ARPA Committee, announced by the mayor last month.
“I will submit a recommended ARPA plan to the City Council based on the input from our residents and stakeholders. The City Council will evaluate the plan, make changes if they wish, and vote to approve the city’s official plan. Once the plan is approved, it will be forwarded to the ARPA committee to have the projects and services rolled out as approved by the City Council. The committee will meet at least monthly and will ensure the projects are competed with complete transparency, on-time and within budget,” she said.
Republican Councilwoman-at-Large Colleen O’Connor was impressed, also, with the ideas presented.
“All of the ideas from the public were valid and timely. Repairs to the sewer systems, a new senior center, a youth center, a new library in Allingtown, all of these show a need for more community involvement,” she said.
Thinking outside the box, the Republican leader thought combining some of the projects might serve the city best.
“I also think we need to combine some of the projects. The Arts Center on Center St. would be the perfect place to also put a Senior Center. The new library in Allingtown can be combined with a Youth Center. We need to find projects that can serve more than one purpose,” she said.
Not all projects will be doable, she admitted, but the money can be used to make some of them a reality.
“Twenty-nine million is just a drop in the bucket. It will be helpful to West Haven, but it is just a beginning. We need to do better with spending,” she said finally.